Collaborations between UC, Mexican energy efficiency researchers to receive $10M in funding

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UC President Janet Napolitano and Mexican Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquín Coldwell announced Thursday that energy efficiency research conducted by Mexican institutions and UC campuses would receive $10 million in additional funding.

After a yearlong effort by UC and Mexican institution researchers to pinpoint areas of priority in energy efficiency research, Joaquín formally requested proposals that would allocate up to $10 million to projects in Mexico. UC researchers must be active participants in order for projects to receive funding.

The request for additional funding comes three years after President Napolitano launched the UC-Mexico initiative in 2014. The initiative aimed to foster collaboration between UC campuses and Mexican universities in five disciplines, including energy and environmental studies.

George Roderick, chair of the campus’s department of environmental science, policy and management, or ESPM, said the statement sent a “timely message” about the university’s commitment to a strong relationship with Mexico.

“I thought this was terrific news,” Roderick said. “I think (it’s) a demonstration of our commitment to work on scientific issues across the border.”

The Ministry of Energy in Mexico, or SENER, and the Energy Sustainability Fund, or FSE, have partnered with the university to conduct research into clean energy that could benefit both Mexico and California. Projects of interest include lighting technology, smart buildings and the future energy grid.

In 2014, UC Berkeley’s CITRIS lab received seed funding in conjunction with Tecnológico de Monterrey, a Mexican institution, to conduct research on smart communities, energy and infrastructure.

Roderick said both California and Mexico share certain needs, which makes Mexico a suitable partner for research into energy efficiency.

“We share a common culture with Mexico,” Roderick said. “I guess it’s the climate and the kinds of energy needs, but also the social and cultural connections that we have.”

According to campus graduate student Nain Martinez, Mexico has already made several strides in the clean energy field. Mexico adopted a climate change regulation law in 2012 that aims to reduce greenhouse gases to 30 percent of 2000 levels by 2020. Additionally, in 2016, clean energy technologies contributed to approximately 20 percent of the electricity in the country, he said in an email.

Martinez cited California and Mexico as international leaders on climate change and noted that improving climate change in one country creates global benefits.

UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, or ERG, currently partners with Tecnológico de Monterrey to look at clean energy planning at the scale of the entire nation of Mexico. Daniel Kammen, an ERG faculty member, said he was pleased to see increased collaboration between California and Mexico.

“It’s really exciting to see the federal government of Mexico and the California state government moving ahead because we know this is beneficial to both our economies, no matter what the rhetoric is coming out of Washington, D.C.,” Kammen said.  “The economics of clean energy are getting better and better. Washington can learn a lot from what’s taking place.”

Revati Thatte covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.