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SBU Awarded IBM Grant to Support Sustainability Accelerator

Cewit ibm grant team
Cewit ibm grant team
From left to right: Huiting Chen (graduate student), Zachary Lerman (software engineer), Christopher Lange (software engineer), Michael Antonucci (project manager), Rong Zhao (project PI), Christine Gilbert (project co-PI), Luka Zuric (graduate student), Sung-Gheel Jang (project co-PI).

Stony Brook University has been awarded a grant from IBM valued at $362,000 to co-develop the Clean Energy Equity Index (CEEI). The CEEI will be deployed as a cloud-based geospatial analytics software and serve as an open platform for all participants in the clean energy ecosystem.

The grant is awarded through the IBM Sustainability Accelerator program. It enables support for the IBM Sustainability Accelerator’s engagement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to forecast electricity access and provide valuable insights for guiding policy and investment decisions that enhance sustainable, affordable and reliable energy access in African countries. In doing so, Stony Brook has been recognized as a strategic ally advancing the Accelerator’s mission of innovating and scaling sustainability solutions for underserved communities.

Led by Rong Zhao, director of the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) and faculty members Christine Gilbert and Sung-Gheel Jang from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), the project aims to provide actionable information and best practices to support communities throughout the world in the provision of an accessible, affordable and reliable source of clean energy as well as the transition from fossil fuel energy production.

Collaborating with IBM and UNDP, whose overall sustainable development goals are to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity, the CEEI team is developing an innovative, data-driven approach for public and private sector stakeholders to address issues in the siting, production, transmission, and distribution of clean energy, provide affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity access to disadvantaged communities, and measure the impact of clean energy policies and investments.

Zhao explained the potential impact of the project on Sub-Saharan African countries and areas that lack electricity access, which are the priority for the UNDP, and described the three aspects of data necessary for the project. “Environmental and technical indicators, financial indicators, and socio-economic indicators are factors taken into account for the CEEI,” he said.

Not only will the CEEI aim to provide data for different administrative levels, but will also seek to indicate the required training, infrastructure and environmental support to allow areas to implement the recommendations of the CEEI.

Zhao added that this collaboration enables the project team to leverage IBM’s cloud computing resources and a wealth of weather and environmental data to generate actionable insights on climate risk, electricity supply resilience, clean energy resource potential, and environmental sustainability. He said it is the goal of the team to make sense of the wide variety of data sets and create an easy-to-use software for non-technical users — the policymakers, clean energy investors and developers, advocacy groups, and community organizations — to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

This project is also the first collaboration associated with the newly formed New York Climate Exchange, anchored by Stony Brook University. The Exchange aims to connect public and private organizations around the topics of climate change and sustainability with the goal of providing actionable solutions for communities impacted by climate change.

“This collaboration with Stony Brook University has presented a unique opportunity for us to help advance equity and accessibility in the energy domain,” said Michael Jacobs, sustainability and social innovation leader at IBM Corporate Social Responsibility.

The CEEI project serves as a Phase 0 engagement of the Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island, which the NY Climate Exchange anchors. By providing a foundation on which to build and expand upon clean energy solutions, the collaboration between Stony Brook University, UNDP and IBM is laying the groundwork for future work The Exchange is planning to facilitate.

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