Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, October 7, 2019

Nemet named World Citizen Prize recipient

Greg Nemet Greg Nemet

La Follette School Professor Greg Nemet will receive one of the first two World Citizen Prizes in Environmental Performance during APPAM’s 2019 Fall Research Conference next month in Denver.

The award recognizes research that assesses pathways to achieve measurable but as-yet unrealized gains in overall environmental performance, especially for reducing consumption and waste.

Nemet’s first book, How Solar Energy Became Cheap: A Model for Low Carbon Innovation, offers a comprehensive assessment of solar energy’s rapid adoption and falling costs. In the book, Nemet uses a mixed-method approach with interviews and data analysis to understand how the costs of solar energy fell so quickly. It was published in June.

“The La Follette School is honored to have Greg on our faculty; he is an outstanding scholar and teacher,” said Director and Professor Susan Webb Yackee. “His interdisciplinary work ties together economics, policy analysis, and engineering in a way that provides new insights to the energy policy community.”

David Peyton, the grantor responsible for funding the World Citizen Prizes, will present the award to Nemet in November.

“I am excited to see that by starting this prize, APPAM is elevating environmental policy and bringing recognition to the strong set of scholars, especially younger ones, who are committed to improving public policy on environment and climate change,” Nemet said.

For his book, Nemet spoke with people in 18 countries about the strategies they had used to implement cost-efficient solar energy systems. One of the book’s key findings: Solar energy’s success is heavily dependent on the unrestricted flow of information between countries.

Nemet has numerous presentations scheduled around the world this fall, including one at Nanjing University in China, at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in Washington, DC, and for the US Department of Energy. He also is giving the Energy Analysis and Policy Seminar on Wednesday, October 9.

In China, “I talked about what a future energy system would look like where energy is plentiful because of solar and other complementary technologies, like electric vehicles and electrolyzers,” Nemet said. “The last third of the book is about applying the lessons from solar to other technologies. This part I see as the main contribution—and, I think, where the work is getting the most interest.”

Nemet also will present his findings in Japan, where officials are interested in developing technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the coming years, Nemet hopes to apply the lessons of solar energy to scaling up an important carbon removal technology known as direct air capture. His insights from the book will also be included in the next assessment report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Nemet, who has a doctorate in energy and resources from the University of California-Berkeley, received an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2017 to support his research, and he is part of a $1.25 million project at the University of Texas-Austin funded by the US. Department of Energy. He also has been a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Global Energy Assessment.

- Aaron Conklin contributed to this story