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Energy Transition Institute Celebrates Official Launch

The Energy Transition Institute “will be a powerful new force on one of the most important issues of our time: how to develop a clean energy future that leaves no one behind,” said U.S. Sen. Ed Markey during a celebration of ETI’s official opening on Monday, Feb. 28 in Old Chapel at UMass Amherst.

An enthusiastic group of campus community members attended “Energy Transition Institute – Envisioning a Clean and Equitable Energy Future” in-person in the Old Chapel, while hundreds more joined via Zoom.

Markey, who has long been a Congressional champion in both the House and the Senate for unleashing America’s clean energy revolution, appeared via a prerecorded message. He praised the university’s “history of groundbreaking scholarship on economic and racial injustice” and said ETI “will bring UMass expertise and pioneering research to the intersection of climate innovation and climate justice.”

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy emphasized the flagship campus’s leadership in Massachusetts’ effort to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. While UMass Amherst is the largest energy consumer and largest emitter among all state agencies, it has successfully reduced its emissions by almost 30 percent, he said.

The university is also taking the lead by “using our expertise in the physical and life sciences, engineering, social sciences and the humanities to focus on facilitating a fast, but also fair transition to a decarbonized energy system,” Subbaswamy said.

Participating in a discussion-and-answer session led by professor Amilcar Shabazz, W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, were Danielle Deane-Ryan, director of equitable climate solutions for the Bezos Earth Fund; Elvis Mendez ’09, executive director of community activist organization Neighbor to Neighbor; and Cielo Sharkus ’21 MS, UMass Amherst Ph.D. candidate in environmental and water resource engineering; and Erin Baker, professor of industrial engineering and faculty director of ETI.

Among the questions addressed were ways that scientists and engineers could and should interact with historically marginalized, underserved and overburdened communities when designing clean energy solutions.

Deane-Ryan said that ETI leaders have been pioneering in efforts to bring the scientific community together with those who have lived experiences of the very problems they are trying to solve.

The ETI launch was co-sponsored by the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy, the Wind Energy Center, Institute for Social Science Research and anthropology, civil and environmental engineering and economics departments.