The US electrical power system is a complex, continent-scale machine that consists of tens of thousands of generators connected by hundreds of thousands of miles of electrical circuit to hundreds of millions of loads. Nearly all homes, businesses, and industries in the US are now connected to this centralized power grid which began to develop over one hundred years ago. Efforts are underway to make this interconnected system smarter and more sustainable within the constraints of the aging existing network. At the same time, the International Energy Agency estimates that 770 million people today still don’t have access to any source of electricity, predominantly in Africa. While this infrastructure deficit presents an immense challenge to African governments, it as well presents an opportunity to embrace a century of technological progress to build a modern, sustainable power system in support of a rapidly growing and developing region. This talk will explore opportunities to chart a new path in the effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7, access to sustainable energy for all.
Nathan Williams is an Assistant Professor at the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology. His research focuses on African energy systems with a particular interest in the use of renewable and decentralized energy technologies to expand access to electricity. His work has applied various methods including techno-economic modeling, risk analysis and machine learning. More broadly, he is interested in how infrastructure systems in the Global South can be planned in an integrated and sustainable manner to support social and economic development in underserved communities. His interest in energy and development was sparked while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in an unelectrified rural community in Burkina Faso. He has a B.S. in Physics and Mathematics from Whitworth University, a M.Sc. in Physics from the Nelson Mandela University and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.