Representatives from the URC’s research universities – Michigan State University (MSU), the University of Michigan (U-M) and Wayne State University (WSU) – discussed the recently released report from the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission. This report provided a long-term strategy for the state of Michigan in the areas of transportation, water, energy and communications.
Jan Beecher Ph.D, Director, Michigan State University Institute of Public Utilities Policy Research & Education, who served on the commission, shared some insights from her experience helping create the report.
“It’s well-documented that infrastructure issues aren’t unique to Michigan, this is a nationwide concern and as such, this report is getting attention from across the country,” share Beecher. “One of the most interesting elements of this report was what it revealed about how significantly our infrastructure needs have evolved. The modern world demands infrastructure that is integrated into society in new ways, which means that the next generation of leaders and policy makers will need to think about infrastructure in a much more sophisticated way.”
Mark A. Barteau, Director, University of Michigan Energy Institute, DTE Professor of Advanced Energy Research, Professor of Chemical Engineering, talked about the role of research universities in the future of infrastructure planning and development. Barteau also shared results from the latest University of Michigan Energy Survey.
“The discussions about the dynamics of infrastructure that are happening at universities like the URC schools are focused on predicting how people will use infrastructure in the future, examining how technology will change our society and anticipating how that will impact our infrastructure needs,” commented Barteau. “As the demand for clean energy grows, we will need to find new ways to integrate this technology into our infrastructure. The increasing electrification of vehicles will drive a need for greater energy storage capabilities, but also an increase in charging stations. And what impact will that have on our national energy system?”
National Energy Grid infrastructure planning and research is one area of focus for Eranda Nikolla, PhD., Assistant Professor, Wayne State University Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science. Nikolla shared some examples of the work that is happening at Wayne State in energy conservation and generation.
“We are examining a variety of solutions to some of the looming challenges facing our national energy grid to help ensure continuous power, and limited outages in the future,” shared Nikolla. “Our research is helping minimize energy inefficiency and identify effective energy conversion sources and storage options. We are also focused on educating future engineers and scientists, and encouraging them to constantly be pushing technology further.”
The panel also reaffirmed their commitment to work closely with, and serve as a resource for, policy makers and legislators to help find practical, affordable solutions for our communities. Research universities provide a place where policy and technology intersect, allowing testing to take place that can gauge consumer appetite for new technologies and measure how that will impact future infrastructure needs to help eliminate wasteful spending on outdated or inefficient projects. The conversation also examined infrastructure funding solutions in the future, discussing the pros and cons of the different options that are available.
Whether it’s helping shape policy decisions, driving technological innovation or developing new talent, the URC plays a significant role in the planning and development of the 21st century infrastructure necessary to ensure Michigan can remain competitive in the global economy.