Energy Transformation Essays

Energy is regarded as a significant property of matter, which has the potential of being converted into radiation, heat, or work. This indicates that various biological, physical, and chemical processes rely on energy in order to accomplish their goals. Further, the use of energy demands the conversion of energy from one form to another. As such, it is difficult to destroy or create energy, but the transformation of energy from one form to another form is possible through the adoption of various physical processes. The transformation of energy takes into consideration of the use of energy in the form of work, radiation, and heat. This aids in application of energy to various processes and life activities.


The concept of energy is useful since it aids in describing various processes, which occur in the universe. These include the various energy transformations, which are present in the natural and man made world. These energy forms include electromagnetic energy, chemical energy, kinetic energy, electrical energy, elastic energy, heat energy, gravitational energy, mass energy, and nuclear energy. As such, conservation of energy takes place during the transformation process. However, energy is transformed from one form to another form.

Energy Transformation

Physical processes are comprised of “initial states”, which transform the processes into “final states”. As such, the transformation process is characterized by a change in energy (Ei). The change in energy is influenced by a system’s surroundings. Equation 1 depicts a typical energy transformation process.

∆ Ei = Efinal, i – Einitial, i        …………………….…………………………1

Further, since the transformation process of energy involves the conservation of energy, the sum of all energy changes is zero. Equation 2 illustrates the equation for conservation of energy.

∆E+ ∆E2 + … = i= 0 ……………………….………………….2

As equation 1 and 2 indicate, there are two points, which are significant in the concept of energy. The first point is that, during energy transformation process, the change in energy is vital. As such, the final and initial energy states are not significant in the energy concept. Further, physical laws play a crucial part in determining how energy changes occur in the physical process of energy transformation. The other point is that all the ways in which energy may change should be accounted for in an energy transformation process. Nevertheless, in all changes of energy, energy has to be conserved. Equation 3 depicts an energy conservation equation.

∆Esystem + ∆Esurroundings = 0 ……………………………….……….3

Units of Energy

According to Moran et al., the unit of work is force times distance. However, various energy forms have independent units of energy. For example, the units of potential and kinetic energy are force times distance. Nevertheless, the SI unit of energy is Newton-Meter (Nm), which is referred to as a joule. As such, the units of energy adopted depend on the application of energy form.

The Law of Energy Conservation

According to Kreith et al., the first law of thermodynamics states that “Energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be transformed from one form to another”. This first law of thermodynamics is also regarded as the law of energy conservation. This law claims that the total amount of energy and work into the system is equal to the total amount of energy and work out of the system. This indicates that, in an isolated system, the total amount of energy remains constant.

Essays on Energy Technology Innovation Policy

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Title: Essays on Energy Technology Innovation Policy
Author:Chan, Gabriel Angelo Sherak0000-0001-9382-919X
Citation:Chan, Gabriel Angelo Sherak. 2015. Essays on Energy Technology Innovation Policy. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
Full Text & Related Files:Chan Dissertation Formatted 150515_final.docx (10.57Mb; Microsoft Word 2007) 
CHAN-DISSERTATION-2015.pdf (3.775Mb; PDF) 
Abstract:Motivated by global climate change, enhancing innovation systems for energy technologies is seen as one of the largest public policy challenges of the near future. The role of policy in enhancing energy innovation systems takes several forms: public provision of research and develop funding, facilitating the private sector’s capability to develop new technologies, and creating incentives for private actors to adopt innovative and appropriate technologies. This dissertation explores research questions that span this range of policies to develop insights in how energy technology innovation policy can be reformed in the face of climate change.
The first chapter of this dissertation explores how decision making to allocate public research and development funding could be improved through the integration of expert technology forecasts. I present a framework to evaluate and optimize the U.S. Department of Energy’s research and development portfolio of applied energy projects, accounting for spillovers from technical complimentary and competition for the same market share. This project integrates one of the largest and most comprehensive sets of expert elicitations on energy technologies (Anadón et al., 2014b) in a benefit evaluation framework. This work entailed developing a new method for probability distribution sampling that accommodates the information that can be provided by expert elicitations. The results of this project show that public research and development in energy storage and solar photovoltaic technologies has the greatest marginal returns to economic surplus, but the methodology developed in this chapter is broadly applicable to other public and private R&D-sponsoring organizations.
The second chapter of this dissertation explores how policies to transfer technologies from federally funded research laboratories to commercialization partners, largely private firms, create knowledge spillovers that lead to further innovation. In this chapter, I study the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Laboratories, and provide the first quantitative evidence that technology transfer agreements at the Labs lead to greatly increased rates of innovation spillovers. This chapter also makes a key methodological contribution by introducing a technique to utilize automated text analysis in an empirical matching design that is broadly applicable to other types of social science studies. This work has important implications for how policies should be designed to maximize the social benefits of the $125 billion in annual federal funding allocated to research and development and the extent to which private firms can benefit from technology partnerships with the government.
The final chapter of this dissertation explores the effectiveness of international policy to facilitate the deployment of low-emitting energy technologies in developing countries. Together with Joern Huenteler, I examine wind energy deployment in China supported through international climate finance flows under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. Utilizing a project-level financial model of wind energy projects parameterized with high-resolution observations of Chinese wind speeds, we find that the environmental benefits of projects financed under the Clean Development Mechanism are substantially lower than reported, as many Chinese wind projects would have been built without the Mechanism’s support, and thus do not represent additional clean energy generation.
Together, the essays in this dissertation suggest several limitations of energy technology innovation policy and areas for reform. Public funds for energy research and development could be made more effective if decision making approaches were better grounded in available technical expertise and developed in framework that captures the important interactions of technologies in a research and development portfolio. The first chapter of this dissertation suggests a politically feasible path towards this type of reform.
Policies to “unlock” publicly sponsored inventions from the organizations that develop them have broad impact on private sector innovation. These policies multiply the effect of public research and development funds, but should be strengthened to more rapidly advance the scientific frontier. The second chapter of this dissertation provides some of the first quantitative evidence to support reform in this area.
Finally, international policies to facilitate the deployment of climate-friendly technologies in developing countries face serious implementation challenges. The current paradigm of utilizing carbon markets to fund individual projects that would not have otherwise occurred has failed to encourage energy technology deployment in one of the sectors with the greatest experience with such policies. The third chapter of this dissertation suggests that this failure has been largely due to poorly designed procedural rules, but options for reform are available.
Mitigation of global climate change will require broad policy response across the full range of scales, sectors, and policy spheres. Undoubtedly, climate mitigation will result in widespread transformation of energy systems. This dissertation focuses on the role of innovation policy in accelerating the transformation of these systems. The range of policies studied in this dissertation can make climate change mitigation more politically feasible and more cost effective by expanding the set of technological choices available to public and private actors faced with incentives and requirements to lower their greenhouse gas emissions to collectively safe levels.
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