Energy Research Council Report

Download the Energy Research Council Report (pdf) — the foundation document for the MITEI structure and programs.


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The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) was built according to a template laid out in the 2006 Report of the Energy Research Council commissioned by President Hockfield. The report called for new approaches to multidisciplinary research, education across school and department boundaries, a more energy efficient campus reached in part through student-led projects, and outreach to the policy world through technically grounded analysis. It also emphasized the importance of another MIT strength – partnering with industry as a prime locus for the clean energy transformation needed to address economic, environmental, and security concerns associated with the current energy system.

Drawing on the recommendations in that report, MITEI was launched in the fall of 2006, creating a new platform for highly focused energy-related activity at MIT. The MITEI program includes research, education, campus energy management and outreach programs that cover all areas of energy supply and demand, security, and environmental impact.

In the past seven years, MIT faculty, staff, and students have responded in MIT fashion! Hundreds of research projects are being supported ranging from solar energy to hydrocarbon production, from global systems to nanostructured materials. This has been made possible largely through strategic alliances with companies across a broad range of energy-related businesses, as well as government and philanthropic support.

Also, the recently created energy minor spans all five schools, graduated 21 students this June, and has stimulated the development of new courses and texts. A partnership of MITEI, faculty, students and MIT facilities is yielding millions of dollars in campus operating budget savings. Analyses of technology pathways to a low carbon future have influenced the national policy debate.

MITEI's research program

The MITEI interdisciplinary research program focuses on the following:

  • Innovative technologies and underlying policy analysis that will improve how we produce, distribute and consume conventional energy.
  • Transformational technologies to develop alternative energy sources that can supplement and displace fossil fuels, including the economic, management, social science and policy dimensions needed for this transformation.
  • Global systems to meet energy and environmental challenges through a multidisciplinary systems approach that integrates policy design and technology development.
  • Tools to enable innovation, transformation and simulation of global energy systems through strategic basic research.

Through its research program, MITEI addresses a critical link in the energy innovation chain--the pairing of MIT's world-class research teams with the best in industry who will be responsible for moving the products of this collaboration into the energy marketplace. The structure of MITEI supports research that addresses key industrial concerns including the development through basic research of enabling energy technologies that have the potential to address multiple energy challenges; the delivery of energy products and services at scale; and the provision of energy products and services in highly complex policy, legal and regulatory environments. Specific MIT research focus areas include:

  • Advanced nuclear fission
  • Biofuels
  • Buildings/urban design
  • Conversion
  • Enabling sciences
  • Global climate change
  • Industrial processes
  • Markets and policy
  • Oceans
  • Oil and gas
  • Sequestration
  • Solar
  • Geothermal
  • Storage
  • Systems/power
  • Vehicles/transportation systems

The merging of the "real-world" experience, vision and focused needs of industry with the creativity and research capabilities of MITEI's interdisciplinary teams of scientists, engineers, economists, architects and planners, management and innovation experts and social scientists will provide a powerful transformative tool to help meet the energy challenges of the 21st century.

MITEI's focus on students

MITEI engages MIT students who are interested in energy and related disciplines through education and campus-oriented activities.

  • The MITEI education program seeks to catalyze student learning and enthusiasm to help solve the many scientific, technical, social and political challenges associated with meeting today's energy challenges. It does so by fostering cross-disciplinary learning opportunities (including the Institute-wide Energy Studies Minor) and assisting students with energy research and learning opportunities beyond the classroom.
  • The MITEI campus energy program seeks major reductions in campus-wide energy use, utilizing the campus as a learning laboratory. Among the activities are energy system upgrades, student-run projects to reduce energy use and emissions, on-campus testing of specific innovative measures, a major study to look at all options and web postings of resulting guidelines for use by other universities and institutions.