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MEDIA ADVISORY: Hopkins Professor Available To Discuss California Power Outages, Electrical Grid Management and Renewable Energy

Sept. 25, 2020
CONTACT: Doug Donovan
Cell: 443-462-2947
dougdonovan@jhu.edu
@dougdonovan

Benjamin Hobbs, a Johns Hopkins University professor of environmental health and engineering, is available to speak to the media about issues related to the California energy grid and a new effort to build more renewable energy into power markets over the next decade.

Hobbs helped launch the new Future Power Markets Forum to explore ways to design an efficient and reliable wholesale power market for a low-carbon electricity system. The Forum involves research and discussions between regulators, industry representatives and technical experts

“The idea behind the forum is to generate momentum about how we are going to digest renewable energy sources such as wind and solar into our electric systems and fully realize their environmental and economic benefits,” Hobbs said. “There are some cautionary lessons that are happening in California today.”

The project’s research library and other efforts can be found at PowerMarkets.org. The forum was co-founded by Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs and Grid Strategies, a consulting firm that focuses on integrating clean energy into the electric grid.

Benjamin Hobbs

Participants in the project include electricity customers, power generation companies, utilities, think tanks and nonprofits. In addition, independent system operators (ISOs) that manage the grids that deliver most of the power in the United States are participating.

Hobbs chairs the Market Surveillance Committee of the California Independent System Operator. That ISO was forced to call for rolling blackouts during last month’s heat wave in California. The blackouts were the first in the state since 2001 when Hobbs joined that committee. The August move was necessary because demand outstripped the evening supply of solar, hydro, and wind generation capacity for a grid whose natural gas and nuclear based capacity has been trending downwards, he said. Importing power from neighboring states fell short as the intense heat also strained those systems.

“The lesson isn’t that renewables are not reliable,” Hobbs said. “U.S. and European experience shows that with enough investment and careful operations, power systems with large amounts of renewables can be reliable as well as clean. Such systems do, however, behave differently than fossil fuel dominated systems; we have to learn from experience, and understand and manage them better.”

Johns Hopkins University’s participation in the Forum is an extension of the university’s emphasis on sustainability. The school in 2019 established the Johns Hopkins Sustainability Leadership Council, which is establishing the university as a leader for teaching and researching environmental sustainability locally and globally. Hobbs serves on the council’s steering committee and contributes to research on technological improvements to renewable energy sources. He is also an advisor for the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, which works to pursue policy reforms that allow emerging economies to achieve human development at minimal economic and environmental costs.

Reporters interested in speaking with Hobbs can call Doug Donovan at 443-462-2947 or email him at dougdonovan@jhu.edu.

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