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President Obama lauds DOE energy efficiency program

President Obama praised energy programs, including one connected with PPPL, in a talk Thursday. He toured Penn State research facilities before his speech with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, left, and Jim Freihaut, a Penn State professor, right.

(Photo Credit: Andy Colwell) 

U.S. President Barack Obama touted the importance of energy efficiency programs funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in moving the nation toward a clean energy future in a talk delivered Thursday, Feb. 3, at Pennsylvania State University. He also toured the university's campus with Steven Chu, the U.S. Energy Secretary.

Obama praised efforts such as those taking place at the Energy Innovation Hub for Energy Efficient Buildings at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a federal initiative that is led by Penn State and includes funding for research at the Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University.

"You're preparing to lead the way on a hub that will make America home to the most energy-efficient buildings in the world," Obama told a crowd of about 3,000 students, faculty, staff and invited guests.

Such guests included several PPPL scientists associated with the project, including Adam Cohen, the deputy director for operations, Andrew Zwicker, the head of science education, and Stephanie Wissel, a postdoctoral fellow at the laboratory who also works on the project.

"We are very excited at the chance of using our own experience in improving our own efficiency and in educating students and in applying this knowledge to improving building efficiency for the nation," Cohen said, after hearing the President's speech.

Zwicker, the associate director of workforce development for the project, said he was thrilled by Obama's emphasis on education as the foundation of job growth. "I'm honored to be a part of this and excited to be beginning the work," Zwicker said.

The $122 million project brings together researchers from universities, national laboratories and private industry to find ways to reduce energy use in buildings, which now accounts for 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and carbon emissions. It is one of three energy innovation hubs that will receive funding from the DOE.

At PPPL, Zwicker is overseeing the creation of education programs to train people about energy-efficiency technology and systems. Robert Sheneman, the head of the lab's materiel/environmental division, and Keith Rule, an environmental project engineer, also are on the project team at PPPL. Researchers from Princeton's engineering school will focus on developing sensors for measuring how energy flows through buildings and on creating computerized systems that can use that information to better manage how homes are heated and cooled.

At the Philadelphia Navy Yard, more than 90 organizations are involved in the development of innovative technologies that will improve the energy efficiency of commercial and residential buildings. A Clean Energy Campus will be developed there as a proving ground for technologies that will help the nation to reduce overall building energy consumption by 50 percent to 80 percent.

"The discoveries made on (the Clean Energy Campus) will lead to jobs in engineering, manufacturing, construction, installation and retail," Obama said. "They'll be more than jobs that help support families, they'll be jobs with a national purpose; jobs that make our economy smarter, make our planet safer and help America maintain its competitive edge in the 21st Century."

Obama said the innovations produced will bring continued economic prosperity for future generations of Americans.

"If you remember that, and keep breaking new ground and we as a country keep investing in you, I'm confident that America will win the future in this century, just like we did in the last," Obama said.

As part of his announcement on funding, the president unveiled the Better Buildings Initiative, a plan to improve energy efficiency of commercial building space in the U.S. by 20 percent over the next nine years.

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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