Decision-makers in energy producing nations on opposite sides of the world will need nimble skills to navigate complicated intersections of intertwined issues if they hope to develop sustainable clean energy industries for the rest of the 21st century.

A team of West Virginia University researchers has been given the green light to research and build models that can help by examining two important energy rich regions of the world – West Virginia and the Shanxi Province of China.

The National Science Foundation has awarded WVU $335,930 for a project called “The Technology, Energy, Economy and Environment Chain: Integrated Modeling for Technology Transition in Energy Rich Regions.” Project leaders said they believe their research will give analysts and decision-makers wide ranging information that will help guide sensible sustainable clean energy decisions.

The project is a collaboration among key experts in the WVU Regional Research Institute and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design including principal investigator Hodjat Ghadimi, Wesley Burnett, and Jerald J. Fletcher, all of the Davis College, and RRI Director Randall Jackson.

“The intersection is called the technology-energy-environment-economy or TEEE chain,” Jackson explained. “The interplay between those elements of development has a critical and distinctive role in driving technology development and adoption in the transition to sustainable clean energy.”

He said engineers and social scientists will need a thorough understanding of the complex system that the TEEE factors represent and the WVU work will help develop a comprehensive integrated framework that can be a valuable tool in analyzing engineering/economic systems.

Researchers are aiming to develop a modeling framework that will: assess the impacts of adopting new technologies in each region’s energy sector; stimulate and evaluate the impact of two distinctively different government regimes on the path of exhaustible energy resource depletion; and assess the broader economic and environmental implications of transitioning to a diversified and clean energy economy.

Ghadimi, assistant professor of design and landscape architecture and a former research associate professor in the Regional Research Institute said the U.S. and China are engaged in an unprecedented competition for dominance over clean energy industries. He noted that President Barack Obama said in 2011 that “the countries that lead the 21st century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy.”

He added that Chinese Premier Jianbao Wen, in 2012, sent a message to the world that China’s plans for the future include a green and sustainable development with specific goals for energy intensity and carbon emission intensity targets.

“The transition to a sustainable and clean energy system will be pioneered in regions and by institutions that are able to research, engineer and commercialize new technologies,” Ghadimi said.

Burnett, an assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics, explained that the WVU research “broadly seeks to determine how two energy-rich regions can transition to sustainable, clean energy. Both regions are dominated by coal production – a relatively plentiful and cheap form of energy – but carbon intensive in terms of current forms of electricity generation. Our study seeks to determine the link between technology, energy, the environment, and the economy in both of these regions.”

Fletcher, who also directs the WVU-based U.S.-China Energy Research Center, noted the contrast between the two target areas of the studies.

“West Virginia’s governance is based upon a market-based economy whereas the Shanxi province is based upon a centrally-planned economy,” Fletcher said. “Our work will be focused on linking environmental impacts with existing economic models to better understand how particular economic or energy policies will affect the environment. Our modeling techniques will help us better understand these impacts under two different types of economic regimes.”

The project is consistent with WVU’s strategic plan because it seeks to excel in innovation in a variety of disciplines; advances international activity and global engagement; and enhances the well-being and equality of life of the people of West Virginia.



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CONTACTS: Gerrill Griffith, WVU Research Corp., 304.293.3743,

David Welsh, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design