Cal Energy Corps Summer Interns Reflect on Experience

Chou Hall at UC Berkeley

by Connor Clark

Just as soon as it’s began, we are at the end of another great year of the Cal Energy Corps summer internship program. It’s been an incredible experience following this group of students throughout their respective summers. The Cal Energy Corps program, cosponsored by CIEE and CITRIS, places a cohort of high achieving UC Berkeley undergraduate students in summer internships, to perform research and work focusing on sustainable development and climate solutions. For this month’s spotlight, let’s take a look at some of the work done over the summer by two of this year’s interns, and learn a bit from their findings.

At Carbon180, Emily, Rory (Senior Policy Advisor), and Dvorit (Director of the Carbontech Labs accelerator program) watch Erin’s (Director of Policy) testimony to the House Science Committee on implementing the first-ever dedicated carbon removal program and updates to the Department of Energy’s carbon capture R&D work.

Emily Turkel, a junior majoring in Conservation and Resource Studies and minoring in Public Policy, spent her summer working with Carbon180, a carbon sequestration NGO in Oakland. She’s spent her internship performing analysis on agricultural soil (and tree) carbon sequestration in the marketplace– specifically, on the kinds of actions agricultural groups undertook as part of the now-defunct Chicago Climate Exchange. As explained by Emily in her Cal Energy Corps blog entry:

“The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) was an incredible (now defunct) scheme developed by the economist Richard Sandor. The main idea was to have companies take part in a voluntary carbon market — firms would agree to take part in a cap and trade system with CFI (carbon financial instrument) contracts. In essence, firms were agreeing to only emit as much carbon as the CCX allowed them to based on how much carbon the firm typically emitted annually. Each year the system was in place, the CCX would allot 1% fewer CFIs to each firm, forcing them to cut down on emissions and move toward a carbon-neutral economy. Some firms, however, were unable to cut down their emissions; This is where offsets come into play. In addition to the firms that directly generate and emit greenhouse gases (members), the CCX also included offset providers and aggregators (participant members). Participant members ran projects that removed carbon dioxide from the air and stored the carbon. These projects were given CFIs to sell to firms looking to continue emitting more carbon than they were permitted.”

Through focusing on the activities of these participants in the CCX, Emily hopes to show what they can teach us about agricultural offsets in current and future carbon markets. Eight weeks later into the internship, there were some fascinating takeaways regarding how difficult it can be to quantify costs farmers incur in order to participate in offset programs, as well as how to balance those against potential revenues.

Meanwhile, across town at Integral Group’s Oakland office, Johnathan Santoso, a major in Chemical Engineering who focuses his research on energy and sustainability, spent his summer returning right back where he came from: UC Berkeley’s campus. Integral Group is an engineering and design firm that’s internationally renown for its cutting edge work in sustainability and energy efficiency in architecture. On the job, his first project had Johnathan submitting a proposal to nominate Chou Hall, a building created by Integral Group up to the highest sustainability standards, for the Building Health Leadership award, awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council in partnership with the University of Washington. But, what makes Chou Hall special? Summarized neatly by Johnathan:

“Chou Hall is the newest building for the Haas School of Business at Cal and has been dubbed as the country’s greenest academic building after earning their TRUE Zero Waste certification as well as LEED Platinum certification. Recently, Chou Hall has also obtained WELL Silver certification and thus has earned the trifecta of green building credentials.

The commitment of the community to divert landfills, particularly presented by Chou Hall Zero Waste Initiative led by Danner Doud-Martin, results in obtaining the only TRUE Zero Waste certification ever given to an academic building. On the other hand, LEED is an abbreviation for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the most widely
used green building credentials that focuses on areas such as indoor air quality, land use, energy and atmosphere. Unlike TRUE Zero Waste or LEED, WELL standard provides performance requirements for buildings that focuses on the well being of the building occupants by focusing in areas such as air, water, and comfort proven through performance verification during site visits. These certifications also prove as a testament to one of Haas’ core values: student-focused.”

Johnathan’s proposal ended up being right-on, as Integral Group was indeed awarded the Building Health Leadership award, with Johnathan himself accepting the award at the GreenerBuilder convention in San Francisco.

This is just a brief look into the depth of experiences our Cal Energy Corps students have had over the summer. Next month, they’ll reconvene for a final poster reception, where they’ll get the chance to share their work with each other, each other’s mentors, and loved ones to share in their success.

As this year’s Cal Energy Corps program starts to wind down, we’re looking onward to next year: the tenth anniversary of the Cal Energy Corps program. For such a huge anniversary, we want to go all-out in making it one of the best programs we’ve had yet, and to do so we could use your support. If you’re able to, please consider donating, so that we can keep supporting incredible undergraduate research in our tenth year.

Photos: Ana Isabel Diaz (Chou Hall) and Emily Dakota Turkel (Carbon 180 Office)