The University Of San Francisco’s New Focus On The Energy Transition

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The electric power sector is undergoing a rapid transformation to a system that is far more complex – more distributed resources, added storage, customers who are also producers, markets with different regulations and incentives, and constant technological and policy innovation. Young professionals interested in working in this field generally have two post-college, professional education options: engineering or business. Some schools offer a semi-hybrid – engineering degrees with some business classes or vice versa. Yet there are few options for those who want to understand and explore the three pillars of this transformation – technology, policy, and economics/finance.

The University of San Francisco, starting in Fall 2017, is offering an interdisciplinary Master degree which covers these three pillars through an integrated and innovative curriculum. The Master of Science in Energy Systems Management’s curriculum was developed with input from a variety of well known figures in the electric power world including Paul De Martini, Lorenzo Kristof from CAISO, Tom Starrs from Sunpower, and Ryan Wiser from LBNL. Other members of the advisor board hale from the California PUC, PG&E, STEM, Advanced Migrogrid Solutions, NRG, Solar City, and Canadian Solar.

Students will take courses quantitative courses covering how electricity and the grid work and energy technologies. They will take policy courses covering federal, state, and local policies and regulations, requiring them to stay up to date on policy developments and participate in public hearings on initiatives. They will take courses in energy economics and electricity markets so they will understand the financial side of the energy transition. Finally, they will participate in community based learning by spending a weekend installing solar panels or working on a power system. They will have the option of completing an internship or a research project.

The goal of the program is to both educate students about multiple aspects of the power system and to provide students with practical skills that they can use on the job. The broader goal for the University of San Francisco is to train professional who can support the energy transition. Since its inception, USF has been focused on social justice and climate change is a global social justice issue, as well as a serious threat to life as we know it. Promoting the expansion of renewable energy is one way to help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The fossil fuel industry has also had a century of impacts on less-advantage communities in the form of lead and soot emissions and tainted aquifers. The new energy system promises to have fewer impacts on these communities, and, with careful and deliberate planning, the benefits from the new energy economy can be more broadly shared both domestically and internationally.

About the Author: Dr. Maggie Winslow is an Associate Professor and Program Director for the Master of Science in Energy Systems Management at the University of San Francisco.  Previously, she was a professor of economics and the Academic Dean at Presidio Graduate School.  She has taught at UC Berkeley, Antioch University, the Central European University, and for the Conservation Strategy Fund.  She has also been a researcher for Redefining Progress, the Pacific Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Conservation Law Foundation, and Lawrence Berkeley Lab where she worked on the economics of energy efficiency.  She has a BA in Political Science from Williams College, a MS from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources, and PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley.

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