UCI News

UCI to co-lead $50 million water-energy research consortium

US-China collaboration also will include 4 other UC campuses, university lab

October 5, 2015

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 5, 2015 – The University of California, Irvine will be part of a five-year, multimillion-dollar, international research consortium tackling water-related aspects of energy production and use, the U.S. Department of Energy has announced. The partnership, led by UC Berkeley in collaboration with UCI, includes the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC Davis, UC Merced, UCLA, and the Boston-based nonprofit SEI (Stockholm Environmental Institute).

It’s one of several technical tracks under the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, which was launched in 2009 by President Barack Obama and former Chinese President Hu Jintao to accelerate the transition to an efficient, low‐carbon economy while mitigating the long‐term threat of climate change. The water-energy track was announced in November 2014.

“The participation of five UC campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in this consortium – and UC Berkeley’s and UCI’s leadership role – is yet another testament to the reach and power of researchers across the UC system,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “I’m proud of our public service through research.”

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said: “Addressing the impact of water resource scarcity and variability on energy systems in the U.S., China and around the world will require collaborative efforts like [this] to develop technical solutions. The U.S. consortium of university, nonprofit, industry and national laboratory partners … will leverage cutting-edge science and technology research capabilities to ensure our collective energy and water security.”

The bilateral investment in the Clean Energy Research Center for Water Energy Technologies will total more than $50 million over five years. The DOE will provide $12.5 million, and the remaining U.S. partners – among them the Southern California Gas Co. and Southern California Edison – will match that for a total of $25 million. The other $25 million will come from the Chinese Ministry of Science & Technology and its consortium partners.

CERC-WET is charged with developing the technologies and expertise that will enable the U.S. and China to reduce the water required to generate electricity and the amount of electricity and natural gas used to transport and treat water – all in the context of cutting greenhouse and pollutant gas emissions.

Areas that CERC-WET will target include water use reduction at thermoelectric plants; treatment and management of water from alternative sources; improvements in sustainable hydropower design and operation; climate impact modeling, methods and scenarios to support increased understanding of energy and water systems; and data and analysis to inform planning and policy.

Principal investigator is Ashok Gadgil, Distinguished Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation at UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and deputy of Science and Technology for Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area. CERC-WET’s co-principal investigators from UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering are Soroosh Sorooshian, director of the Center for Hydrometeorology & Remote Sensing and Distinguished Professor of civil & environmental engineering and Earth system science; and Scott Samuelsen, director of the Advanced Power & Energy Program and the National Fuel Cell Research Center and professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering.

“This high-powered team illustrates our leadership in producing research and knowledge that solves regional, national and global problems,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Certainly, water supply and quality, and energy are top of mind right now, and this partnership – and our energy and water research centers – will yield timely technology and policy recommendations.”

CERC-WET will work with the UC Office of the President, the office of California Gov. Jerry Brown, the Energy Foundation, GE Power & Water, the Bay Area Council, the California-China Office of Trade & Investment, the Institute of Sea Water, Southern California Edison and the Southern California Gas Co.

“This is a great win. It’s an opportunity for California to further enhance the cooperation between California and China on the quest to develop innovations that will drive sustainable energy and climate solutions,” said Louis Stewart, deputy director of innovation and entrepreneurship in Gov. Brown’s Office of Business & Economic Development. “CERC is in alignment with goals set by the governor, who signed a cooperative agreement with China in April 2013.”

In the coming months, U.S. members of the consortium will develop joint work plans with Chinese members of the consortium.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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