WSU Tri-Cities’ Institute for Northwest Energy Futures receives state funding

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RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington’s clean energy future became a little brighter when members of the Washington State House and Senate approved Gov. Jay Inslee’s funding proposal for the Washington State University Tri-Cities’ Institute for Northwest Energy Futures.

The operating budget agreement reached by legislative negotiators and approved by the House and Senate over the weekend includes $7.7 million for the 2023-25 biennium to hire researchers and staff and secure a new facility to house the operation. It now goes to the governor’s desk for signature.

“This is great news, not just for WSU Tri-Cities, but for WSU as a whole, our region, state and the nation. With this funding, INEF will accelerate the journey toward a clean energy future by bridging the gap between science and implementation through a systems approach to researching and analyzing clean energy transition plans including ensuring that we relieve the energy burden for underrepresented groups,” said Sandra Haynes, chancellor at WSU Tri-Cities.

INEF soft-launched last year as a new institute to use energy assets from across the WSU system and serve as broker for helping address the complexities of the changing energy landscape. Researchers in this institute will use a systems approach to integrate existing and developing knowledge in engineering, earth sciences, economics, business, and society to help answer society’s most pressing questions about energy. A systems view will help determine how clean energy technologies work together or compete, assess the impact of action or inaction, and address the intended and unintended social consequences of any planned interventions.  Researchers will use this knowledge to develop policies, programs, and projects to bring about more sustainable and socially equitable results.

“We see INEF’s effort as not only helping policy makers assimilate the pieces of our reimagined energy puzzle, but also as an opportunity to build upon WSU’s considerable multi-campus, multi-disciplinary research, education and service initiatives in the energy space,” said Haynes.

Eight scientists and engineers will be funded – five, including the director, will be located at WSU Tri-Cities, three will be at WSU Pullman. The WSU Tri-Cities scientists will bring expertise in:

  • Measuring the environmental impact of products, materials and processes
  • Techno-economic analysis to assess economic feasibility and risks of processes and products
  • Energy data analytics to predict energy demand, improve distribution and understand customer consumption patterns
  • Assessing the social impacts of action/inaction to help facilitate sustainable and socially equitable results

Jonathan Male will serve as interim director of INEF. Male recently joined WSU as assistant vice chancellor for research and director of the Office for National Laboratory Partnerships in the Office of Research.

“Our vision is that the INEF will serve as a virtual hub to convene, consult and coordinate a network of expertise and capabilities residing in the Mid-Columbia region and throughout Washington state,” Male said. “INEF will help analyze integrated system scenarios for shaping our diverse regional energy resources, in relation to existing energy infrastructure and future needs while considering economic, environmental and social impacts.”

In addition to bringing together researchers, industry and policy makers, INEF will work with existing partners such as Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and new collaborators, WSU Tri-Cities will also continue to educate the future workforce that will be critical to turning research findings into realities that benefit Washington residents and those beyond, Haynes said.

INEF joins three WSU joint research institutes working to address global energy challenges — the Bioproducts Institute, the Nuclear Science and Technology Institute and the Advanced Grid Institute, as well as the Bioproducts Sciences and Engineering Laboratory on the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

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