Workshop 3: Renewable Energy Sustainability

Speakers’ Abstracts and Biographies

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Ron Chan, Ph.D., University of Manchester, U.K.

Title: “Charged up? Impacts of Green Energy Transition on Local Labor Markets.”

Abstract: This paper studies the overall and distributional effects of utility-scale renewable energy expansion on local labor markets in the United States from 2005 to 2019. Utilizing exogenous solar and wind potentials derived from remote sensing data, we identify the causal impact of the expansion in solar and wind energy. We find that the growth in solar and wind capacity has led to a modest and significant increase in employment and labor force participation, with solar energy also contributing to wage growth. Importantly, these positive effects are not short-lived. Our results indicate a growing local economy resulting from solar and wind growth, reflected in (i) a notable increase in jobs and business establishments in the manufacturing sector, in addition to sectors directly linked to renewable projects such as construction, (ii) a rise in population, and (iii) a reduction in various public transfer benefit payments. The most substantial gains, both in terms of job opportunities and wage increases, are concentrated among younger, lower-educated, non-Hispanic white workers.

Biography: Ron Chan is a senior lecturer (equivalent to associate professor) in environmental economics at The University of Manchester and he is currently a visiting faculty fellow at the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University in 2023/24. Ron obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 2014 and joined The University of Manchester in the same year. His research studies the economic impact of air pollution, energy transition and climate change. More recently, his work focuses on a number of policy issues, including impact of energy transition on labor market outcomes, policy effectiveness in decarbonizing the electricity grid, and the impact of agricultural exports on water quality.


Manuel Ron, President, Bio4-Bioethanol Rio Cuarto S.A., Argentina.

Title: “Circular farm economy for bioenergy and carbon neutrality.

Abstract: Farming is blamed to produce almost 30% of the global emissions. Cattle and agriculture are the top activities in terms of CO2 production. The need of reducing emissions has arrive to Argentina too and farmers are trying to capture Carbon in their operations. Reducing the imputs amounts and increasing the yield per acre is part of the solution. The other part is bioenergy, using crops or residues to produce energy. Our company bio4 has an integration of corn ethanol-feedlot-biogas-carbon neutrality. We are a group of 26 farmers that gather in 2006 to copy the ethanol industry in the US. We started operations in 2012, being the first corn to ethanol plant in Argentina. In 2014 we open our feed lot to transform WDGS in animal protein. In 2015 we sat up the first biogas plant using thin stillage from the ethanol process and manure from our nearby feedlot. In 2018 we found a startup, a platform, to measure the carbon footprint of companies and trade Carbon certificates of all kind. Carbon capture in the soils, circular economy and decarbonization is our goal. Contributing to a more sustainable world.

Biography: Agronomic engineer, MBA, farmer with agriculture and cattle operations, cofounder of bio4 first corn to ehtanol plant of Argentina,, cofounder of bioelectrica a biogas company, Cofounder of Rio Beef a beef export company, cofounder of Carbon Neutral + a platform for Carbon neutrality. 

Zhi Zhou, Argonne National Laboratory, U.S.A.

Title: “Electricity wholesale market design in the zero-carbon future: a review of challenges and solutions.”

Abstract: This study examines the need for electricity market redesign in future systems dominated by zero-carbon generation. We start by outlining the basics of electricity market design, and review the current operational practices in U.S. markets. We highlight challenges that arise in a zero-carbon grid, where the cost profiles of renewable resources significantly differ from traditional thermal generation. We then explore proposed solutions for maintaining market efficiency in such systems, including relevant policies and incentives to support the transition. Additionally, we discuss the ongoing revisions across the seven U.S. regional markets, their objectives, and the challenges they may encounter. Focusing on hydropower as an example of flexible resources, we assess its role and the unique challenges it faces in a market increasingly dominated by zero-cost marginal resources. We conclude with key insights and research questions critical for understanding and enhancing market design and efficiency in zero-carbon power systems.

Biography: Dr. Zhi Zhou is a Principal Computational Scientist in the Center for Energy, Environmental, and Economic System Analysis at Argonne National Laboratory. His research interests include optimization, machine learning based forecasting, decision making under uncertainty, and applications on power grid, electricity markets, renewable energy, and the interdependency between power grids and other infrastructure systems. Zhi Zhou received his M.S. in Operations Research and Statistics, and Ph.D. in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Edward Yu, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, U.S.A.

Title: “Developing sustainable aviation fuel system from winter oilseeds.”

Abstract: Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has been identified as a promising method for mitigating aviation CO2 emissions in the near- and medium-term. SAF can be derived from various renewable feedstocks and meets technical and certification standards for commercial aircraft use. Various feedstocks can be utilized to produce SAF via different pathways. The hydro-processed ester and fatty acid (HEFA) technology that utilizes lipids as feedstock, such as vegetable oil, animal fats, and cooking oil, is a fully operational and mature method expected to retain its primary position for the next decade or longer. Integrating winter oilseeds as a SAF feedstock within the corn-soybean cropping system has been proposed to address concerns about the food vs. fuel debate and minimize land use change. Using winter canola in Tennessee as a case study, our study illustrates the potential of developing a SAF ecosystem from winter oilseeds to mitigate the aviation sector’s CO2 emissions.

Biography: Dr. Edward Yu is a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of Tennessee. He has led and co-investigated various projects totaling more than $15.6 million to evaluate the economics of developing a bioenergy supply system from different feedstocks and the nexus of bioenergy, agriculture, and the environmental outcomes on carbon emissions and water quality. His research has been funded by various federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation. He now serves as PI for several projects on sustainable aviation fuels funded by the FAA and a food waste and loss reduction project funded by USDA. His research has been disseminated in prestigious journals and national/international meetings and featured in public press, such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, among others. He has received several research awards from domestic and international professional associations and programs. 


Toni Wang, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, U.S.A.

Title: “Can we use domestic vegetable oil to replace carnauba or petrowaxes.”

Abstract: There is an interest from industry to replace conventional petroleum-based waxes or expansive imported carnauba wax with domestic oleo feed stock. We investigate how chemical modification of common fatty acids impact physical and functional properties of biowaxes. Such fundamental understanding will lead to tunable properties for coating of food and biomaterials with desirable barrier performance.

Biography: Tong (Toni) Wang has been an applied chemist since her training in pharmacy school and a few Ag colleges’ food chemistry programs, and through applying fundamental knowledge during her 25-year faculty research and teaching to improve food quality and create applications of biobased materials in food, feed and energy. Some examples of her research are developing scalable processes for phospholipid recovery from dairy processing waste streams, creating and evaluating anti-freezing peptides, and modifying domestic vegetable oil to create alternatives of natural waxes. Her research has been supported by $12 million funds that led to more than 200 peer-reviewed publications by about 70 graduate students and visiting scientists. Her work has been recognized by many awards, such as the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) Alton E. Bailey Award for outstanding research and exceptional service.


Virginia Skyes, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, U.S.A

Title: “Winter oilseed crops exhibit potential as a source for sustainable aviation fuel in the Southern US.”

Abstract: The global aviation industry has proposed a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Sustainable aviation fuel from winter oilseed crops is a promising avenue to help achieve this goal. Winter oilseeds are grown off-season from the majority of food crops in the US, resulting in greater land use efficiency and preventing competition between food and fuel crop production.  Few potential oilseed species have been examined fully for utility in SAF production and, those that have, have primarily been evaluated in Midwestern productions systems. With longer growing seasons and proximity to major transportation hubs, the MidSouth and Southeastern US are likely regions of untapped potential for winter oilseed production. This presentation will summarize results from several research projects performed over the last six years examining yield and quality of potential winter oilseed species (camelina, carinata, canola, pennycress, crambe, safflower, flax, mustard, radish, turnip) examined under varying production practices across multiple locations in Tennessee. 

Biography: Dr. Virginia Sykes is an Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee with Extension and research responsibility in the areas of agroecology and variety testing. Dr. Sykes earned her Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and M.S. degrees in Statistics from the University of Tennessee and M.S. in Plant Pathology and B.S. in Business from Virginia Tech. She coordinates the Tennessee corn and soybean variety trials and leads the Southern cover crop variety trials, which covers a 10-state region. Her agroecology work focuses on optimizing economic and environmental benefits of conservation agriculture practices such as cover crops, dual-use cover/forage and cover/bioenergy crops, crop rotations, and inter-cropping. 


Gonzalo Irrazabal, J.D., Catholic University, Uruguay

Title: “How green fertilizer will boost energy transition.”

Abstract: The global need to decarbonize economies by 2050 to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement is becoming increasingly urgent, and efforts to achieve the set goals are still insufficient. Uruguay is globally recognized for a successful first energy transition (renewable percentage in the electricity generation matrix) and is now taking steps to make the second energy transition equally successful (renewable percentage in the energy matrix). The direct substitution of fossil fuels with electric power will be one of the main challenges in this regard, including electromobility and heat pumps, among others. However, not all fossil fuel consumption can be electrified due to the nature of consumption or their use as raw materials rather than as an energy source. These sectors are usually referred to as “hard-to-mitigate” including heavy industry, petrochemicals, and heavy long-distance transportation. As mentioned, Uruguay does not currently produce ammonia, but the imported urea has a significant carbon footprint. Producing green urea would contribute to the decarbonization of the national agro-industrial sector and one of the globally challenging-to-mitigate sectors, such as ammonia production. While the preliminary analysis suggests that the price at which green urea would be obtained in Uruguay could be higher than the current average import price of conventional urea, there are several reasons to view this potential industry with optimism, warranting further study of this potential market.

Biography: Gonzalo currently co-leads the Corporate & Energy Department of Irrazabal & Asociados. He also teaches graduate and postgraduate courses at the Universidad Católica and the Universidad de Montevideo, and is the Director of the Sustainable Development Program at Business School of the Catholic University of Uruguay. He has more than 8 years of experience advising in corporate matters, especially regarding social restructuring, financing and mergers and acquisitions of companies. In energy he has vast experience giving advice on: pricing, tariff determination, micro-generation and self-consumption projects, determination of national component of the investment, public bids, among others. From 2020 to 2023 he advised the Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining as external consultant hired by Inter-American Development Bank in a whole range of subjects related to the energy sector. In such role, he was President of the Expert Commission that analyzed the Oil & Gas sector in Uruguay and proposed amendments to laws, decrees of the Executive Power and regulation in general. Additionally, lead the Uruguay H2 Program. Focused on designing and implementing a roadmap for green hydrogen in Uruguay, providing guidance to investors and carrying out a pilot project with public support. He acted as leader of an ad-hoc team appointed by Ministers working on a strategy to a massive roll-out of electric vehicles in Uruguay. Particularly, electric buses for public transport. In such capacity, Gonzalo was co-author of several regulations related to the electricity sector. Finally, he acted as coordinator of strategic plans and contingency actions between the Ministry and the state-owned energy companies. During the last quarter of 2018, he worked for the Energy Charter Treaty as part of the Knowledge Centre, collaborating in carrying out different investigations regarding the energy sector in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Before joining the Firm, Gonzalo worked at the Banking & Energy Department of Guyer & Regules, advising financial institutions and companies in regulations, mergers & acquisitions and corporate matters in general. During his time at Guyer & Regules, he was part of the team of advisors involved in the majority of wind and solar projects in the country. Member of the Sustainable Development Centre Part of the technical committee in charge of carrying out energy research and studies. National Future Energy Leader appointed by WEC Uruguay´s board as part of the first group of National Future Energy Leaders. Gonzalo is the author of several papers of his expertise and collaborator in the book “Derecho de la Energía” (Energy Law) of the Universidad de Montevideo (2014). He obtained his law degree at the Universidad de Montevideo and is also a Magister in Energy and Natural Resources at the Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom.


Gil Souza, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, U.S.A.

Title: “Renewable Energy Servicizing for Residential Homes in Developing Countries.”

Abstract: Energy access remains a critical challenge in developing countries, where unavailability and unreliability are power supply characteristics. This paper explores the potential of servicizing renewable energy for residential consumers in these regions. By shifting ownership and maintenance responsibilities to service providers, households can access clean and reliable solar energy without the upfront costs. We address the economic viability of this model by developing a mathematical model, considering investment costs, supply-demand variability, and consumer adoption. Our results indicate the profitability of the servicizing model, particularly in areas heavily reliant on gasoline generators. With this approach, we determine the optimal charge per unit consumption of energy, the optimal solar generation capacity, and the optimal battery capacity offering valuable insights for firms aiming to provide sustainable energy solutions in developing nations. We also develop a stochastic simulation that utilizes actual solar irradiation and demand data from households in Nigeria. This simulation validates the reliability and robustness of our findings.

Biography: Gil Souza is the Haslam Chair in Business and Distinguished Professor of Business Analytics at the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee. He also holds a part-time professorship appointment at the University of Graz, Austria. Prior to coming to Haslam in 2022, Gil held appointments at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University from 2009 to 2022, and at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland from 2000 to 2009. He received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in 2000, an MBA from Clemson University in 1995, and a BS in aeronautical engineering from ITA (Brazil) in 1990. He worked at Volkswagen of Brazil in new product development and product planning. His research focuses on sustainable operations, in particular carbon footprint reduction, the circular economy, closed-loop supply chain management, and renewable energy. He has over 40 publications in premier refereed academic journals, is a Senior Editor for Production & Operations Management (POM), and a Departmental Editor for Decision Sciences. He wrote the book “Sustainable Operations and Closed-Loop Supply Chains, Second Edition” (Business Expert Press), and co-edited the book “Closed Loop Supply Chains: New Developments to Improve the Sustainability of Business Practices” (CRC Press). Gil won the Wickham Skinner Early–Career Research Accomplishments award from the POM Society in 2004. He is the former president of the Sustainable Operations Special Interest Group of the Manufacturing & Service Operations Management Society of INFORMS, and served as the president of the College of Sustainable Operations of POMS. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, walking, riding his electric bike, music, and Brazilian soccer.


Gabriel Guigou, M.S., Technological University, Uruguay

Title: “Energetic sustainability in Antarctica through the implementation of renewable energies aiming at net-zero generation.”

Abstract: In continental Uruguay, we have made significant strides in the introduction of renewable energies. In Antarctica, energy usage becomes more intensive and equally indispensable. Thus, we face the challenge of developing renewable energy systems to ensure sustainability, considering extreme climatic conditions and logistical limitations. The goal is to identify and evaluate renewable energy sources for application below the 60o parallel, determine the technological maturity of each resource, and analyze restrictions, advantages, and disadvantages. An additional objective is to design a configuration that allows energy autonomy for the Antarctic Scientific Base Artigas, contributing to the net-zero transition goal. The assessment of resources was based on local conditions and specific atmospheric phenomena in the region. Available resources and technologies are presented, emphasizing solar photovoltaic and wind energy, along with others such as geothermal and marine energy. Results indicate that certain technologies are suitable for the Uruguayan base. Furthermore, the possibility of massively integrating renewable energies and their economic, environmental, and logistical impact is evaluated. The results of the implementation of new systems are presented, changing the paradigm of energy generation.

Biography: Gabriel Guigou completed his undergraduate studies in Energy Engineering at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. He has a master’s in Energy at the University of the Republic in Uruguay. He has specialized in renewable energies and conducted research in Antarctica. He works at the Technological University of Uruguay and the Uruguayan Meteorological Institute.


Chairs: Chairs: Mingzhou Jin & Virginia Sykes (UT, USA), Govindan Parayil (University of South Florida), Ron Chan (UK)

Biography: Dr. Mingzhou Jin directs the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE) and the FERSC Center (a DOT/UTC Tier-1 Center) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and is a professor and Department Head at the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He currently holds the John D. Tickle Professorship. His research interest includes sustainability, climate change, optimization, transportation and logistics, supply chain, additive and smart manufacturing, and energy efficiency. His research has been well sponsored with more than $19 million in grants and contracts from a board spectrum of federal, local government agencies and corporations including US National Science Foundation, US Department of Energy, US Department of Transportation, US Department of Homeland Security, three state Departments of Transportation, Tennessee Valley Authority, American Trucking Associations, America Makes, FedEx, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Nissan, Schneider Electric, CyManII, Material Handling Industry, etc. In addition, he has received multiple research, teaching and service awards from professional organizations, Tickle College of Engineering (TCE), and the University of Tennessee, including  2020 UTK Chancellor’s Research and Creative Achievement Award and 2020 TCE  Research Achieve Award. He also received TCE Teaching Fellow, Outstanding Advising, and Outstanding Service awards in the past five years. He is a fellow of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE). Before joining UT, he worked at Mississippi State University for 10 years, from 2002 to 2011.


Biography: Professor Govindan Parayil (PhD, Virginia Tech; MS Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; BS, National Institute of Technology Calicut, India) has been serving as Dean of the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida (USF) since 2017. He was Vice-Rector of United Nations University (UNU), Tokyo, Japan (2008-2014) and Director of UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (2009-2013) while on leave from the University of Oslo, Norway, where he was Professor of Science, Technology and Innovation (2004-2015). He has held faculty positions at the National University of Singapore and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Professor Parayil has held visiting appointments at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Virginia Tech, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Fudan University in Shanghai. He was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in global climate change at Cornell University (1993-1994). He served as the 2016-2017 Mark and Melody Teppola Distinguished Visiting Professor at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. He has authored, edited and co-edited six books and published more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, as well as numerous book chapters. A leading expert in the field of global sustainability with particular interest in energy and climate change, Professor Parayil follows an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability – from describing problems using knowledge and analytical tools from engineering, management and social sciences to finding innovative solutions that are user-focused and market-driven. By nurturing collaborative research and education in sustainability and fostering local and global academic, business, government and civil society engagement, Professor Parayil aims to work toward transitioning to a resilient and sustainable future.