Berkeley Lab Will Lead Energy Effort

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Following a U.S. Department of Energy decision Thursday, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will lead an international consortium created to pioneer improvements in building energy efficiency.

The Clean Energy Research Center is an alliance of American and Chinese institutions that focuses on the research and development of new technologies for saving energy in buildings and is working to find strategies for the commercialization of new innovations in both China and the United States, according to Mark Levine, the center's director on buildings and leader of the China Energy Group at the lab.

Michaela Martin, program manager at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said in an e-mail that the center will focus on researching energy-saving building innovations such as advanced insulation materials, improved window-glazing technologies, energy monitoring and control systems, lighting, geothermal and distributed heat pumps, and solar combined heat and power.

"The most important (aspect), in many ways, is to develop a test bed facility to put all these technologies into one place and test how you can produce a very low-energy building," Levine said.

He added that after new technologies are developed, analysis of the Chinese market and cooperation with industrial partners will help to introduce the new products into both Chinese and American marketplaces.

The center will receive an initial contribution of $12.5 million over five years from the American government, an amount that will be matched by industry partners, amounting to a total of $25 million in funding for the American portion of the center. The Chinese government is expected to similarly fund the center's Chinese counterparts.

In addition to Berkeley Lab, the American half of the center will unite the efforts of seven institutions - the Oak Ridge National Lab, Natural Resources Defense Council, ICF International, National Association of State Energy Offices, Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UC Davis - according to a lab statement. Levine said China has yet to announce the institutions it has chosen to participate in the consortium.

"We'll know when the Chinese decide to let us know," he said. "The Chinese have said they would wait until the U.S. announced what they were doing, and then they will figure out what they are doing, as sort of a phased process."

Research will not begin until the center's Chinese partners have been chosen, according to Levine.

Both the United States and China have made progress in terms of energy efficiency, he said. While China exceeds America in automobile regulations, building efficiency in the United States surpasses China's "mixed fleet" of new and older industrial facilities.

Martin said a Joint Steering Committee consisting of department officials and representatives from the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Energy Administration, as well as a Joint Advisory Panel composed of business and academic experts, will coordinate the trans-Pacific efforts.

"Organizing a consortium in the U.S. is complicated - doing it across borders with the Chinese is very complicated," he said. "The whole thing will be requiring lots of clear communication."


Contact Nina Brown at [email protected]

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