EE Distinguished Lecture: Will Clean Energy Take Our Economy to the Cleaners?

Kristina Johnson
Will Clean Energy Take Our Economy to the Cleaners?
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 4:15pm to 5:30pm
Hewlett 201
Kristina Johnson (Chairman and CEO, Enduring Hydro, LLC)
Abstract / Description: 

In 2009 when the Obama-Biden ticket was inaugurated into office, they set out to accomplish the following aspirational goals:

  • Implement an economy-wide cap and trade systems to reduce U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 83% of 2005 levels by 2050;
  • Save more oil than we import from the Middle East and Venezuela by 2019;
  • Ensure 10% of our electricity comes from renewables in 2012 and 25% by 2025;
  • Put one million Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles on the road by 2015;
  • Create five million jobs by investing $150 bn over ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean-energy future.

And in the 2011 State of the Union address, the President put forth a goal to reach 80% clean electricity by 2035. The Office of the Under Secretary for Energy at the US Department of Energy put together a plan to realize these goals, along with the cost of attaining 80% clean electricity by 2035. In this talk, I will summarize this plan, called the "Strategic Technology Energy Plan (STEP)" as well highlight the unique role of run-of-river and pumped storage hydropower in STEP.


Prior to founding Enduring Hydro in 2011, Dr. Johnson served as undersecretary at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. from May 2009 until October 2010. Before her appointment as undersecretary, Dr. Johnson was provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at the Johns Hopkins University (September 2007 to April 2009), and dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University from July 1999 until September of 2007. She received her BS (with distinction), MS, and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University. After a NATO post-doctoral fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, she joined the University of Colorado-Boulder's faculty in 1985 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 Dr. Johnson directed the NSF/ERC for Optoelectronics Computing Systems Center at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University.

Named an NSF Presidential Young Investigator in 1985 and a Fulbright Faculty Scholar in 1991, Dr. Johnson's academic awards include the Dennis Gabor Prize for creativity and innovation in modern optics (1993) and the John Fritz Medal (2008), widely considered the highest award in the engineering profession. Dr. Johnson was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame (2003), The Colorado Women's Hall of Fame (2014) and the U.S. Inventor's Hall of Fame (2015). A former Stanford athlete, Johnson was selected as one of "40 Women Who Have Made an Impact" since Title IX by ESPNW (2012).

Recognized for her work in technology transfer and entrepreneurship by the States of Colorado and North Carolina (1997, 2001); she received the 2010 Milton Steward Award from the Small Business Technology Council (SBTC), and is a fellow of the Optical Society of America, International Electronics and Electrical Engineering (IEEE), SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She co-founded several companies, including SouthEast Techinventures, and ColorLink, Inc., which was sold to RealD, and is responsible for 3D effects in movies such as Avatar, and 300 others.

Dr. Johnson has published 142 refereed papers and proceedings and holds 45 U.S. patents (129 U.S. and international patents) and patents pending, and has received honorary degrees from University of Alabama at Huntsville, Tufts University, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Dr. Johnson serves on the board of directors of Cisco Systems, AES and Boston Scientific, and was a trustee of the African Wildlife Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Institute.