When I arrived at MIT more than seven years ago, I began by listening – and I heard, from every quarter, the clear,
unambiguous message that it was time for the Institute to step up and do some truly serious work to help change the world’s energy equation. By launching the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) in the fall of 2006, we committed the full force of MIT’s irrepressible problem solving and bold creativity to the challenge of inventing a sustainable energy future.
Since then, MITEI has turned MIT into a hotbed of energy innovation, a central source of unbiased analysis for framing national policy, a model for campus energy management, and a leader in preparing and inspiring the next generation of energy pioneers. This issue of SPECTRVM celebrates MITEI’s achievements on the frontiers of energy research, from bioengineering strategies for better biofuels, to construction technologies geared to deliver dramatic increases in energy efficiency, to nanoengineered surfaces designed to help alternative energy technologies become competitive with fossil fuels.
From engineering and science to economics, architecture, urban design and management, MIT offers unparalleled expertise in the key energy-related disciplines, together with a gift for finding answers at the intersections in between. Given these distinctive strengths, for MIT the challenge of making sustainable energy a mainstream solution represents both an opportunity and a responsibility of unprecedented scale. Thanks to the vision and generosity of many individual donors and of the dozens of corporations and government entities that have stepped forward as MITEI sponsors, MITEI faces this challenge armed with nearly $360 million in research and educational funding. For designing and driving this remarkable engine of new ideas, we owe enormous thanks to MITEI’s Director, Professor Ernest J. Moniz, and Deputy Director, Professor Robert C. Armstrong, as well as to MITEI’s distinguished External Advisory Board, under the leadership of former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz PhD ‘49.
In the last five years, the broad terrain of energy has heaved and buckled beyond anyone’s power to predict — including the global economic crisis and the collapse of carbon policy, the Fukushima disaster and the Macondo oil spill, and the rise of new shale technologies that have transformed the U.S. into the world’s leading producer of natural gas. But through it all — with a signature MIT combination of optimism, curiosity, ingenuity, and eagerness to serve — MITEI’s faculty, students, staff, and supporters have sustained a singular focus and remarkable momentum for change. I am proud of all they have accomplished and deeply grateful for their unswerving commitment to solving the urgent human need for sustainable energy.