The Institute for Energy Studies at Western Washington University was a 2019 Energy Leadership Achievement Award finalist.
The recognition, by the CleanTech Alliance and the Northwest Environmental Business Council at the Energy Leadership Summit Nov. 19 in Seattle, honored individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions to the fields of energy policy, innovation and business.
In 2012, Western established the Institute for Energy Studies, an interdisciplinary program that brings together science, technology, public policy, business and economics to prepare graduates to address the complex issues in the transition from inefficient use of fossil fuels to a sustainable energy system.
This fall, Western began offering a new B.S. degree in Energy Science and Technology; the degree covers electric energy systems, energy efficiency in the built environment, energy resources, conversion technologies and environmental impacts. Western also offers a BA in Energy Policy and Management as well as two minors, and energy concentrations in the Electrical Engineering and Business and Sustainability majors.
"The Institute is on the cutting edge of training the new workforce to decarbonize our energy system," said Nancy Hirsh, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition. "The new BS degree in Energy Science and Technology is just the type of education and training that the region needs to realize a clean, equitable, and affordable energy future."
This portfolio of undergraduate majors is unique in the country, especially at an undergraduate level. It is designed to prepare graduates to become leaders in the Northwest's emerging clean energy economy and to meet the future workforce needs of Washington's emerging energy economy, which emphasizes clean energy technology, energy efficiency, smart systems, environmental mitigation and entrepreneurial solutions.
The WWU energy program is also unique in filling skill gaps in the field of energy efficiency, a growing business opportunity and urgent environmental imperative in the region and globally. Energy courses at WWU prepare students to conduct hands-on service projects such as “campus-as-a-lab” efficiency upgrades in campus buildings, as well as collaborating with cities, utilities and energy firms in the region, such as Ingersoll Rand Trane Climate Solutions.
“In addition to working with the Energy Institute and Western’s Facilities Management group, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to use the buildings at Western to teach and practice what the Energy Institute’s graduates might experience in their future careers,” said Trane’s Vice President and General Manager Warren Michelsen.
The Institute for Energy Studies (IES) has drawn support from many area partners, including Puget Sound Energy, which helped fund the new Puget Sound Energy Professor of Energy Studies.
To fill this position, the IES hired Froylán Sifuentes, who recently earned a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, as the newest IES permanent faculty member in the Institute for Energy Studies and Environmental Sciences. Sifuentes will teach energy science and technology courses at WWU, including a new course in Sustainable Building Analysis and Design in winter 2020.