Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm visits UConn’s new SNE IAC

Story by Elizabeth Hannabach and Shruthi Nagaraj May 27, 2022


Figure 1: Seen in the picture (From L to R) – George Bollas, Director – IASE, UConn Interim President Radenka Maric, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

On May 20, 2022, UConn had the great honor of hosting the United States Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm for a visit and tour of the Innovation Partnership Building (IPB) and the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2) on UConn’s campus. The University’s Interim President Radenka Maric accompanied by, Emmanouil (Manos) Anagnostou, Interim Associate Dean for Research and Industrial Partnerships, Pamir Alpay, Interim Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, and George Bollas, Director, Institute for Advanced Systems Engineering (IASE), welcomed and gave a tour of the IPB to Secretary Granholm and United States Congressman Joe Courtney.

During the tour, Secretary Granholm and the Congressman visited the Department of Energy’s Southern New England Industrial Assessment Center (SNE-IAC) lab setup in the IPB. During her visit, Secretary Granholm was greeted by the center Director Dr. Liang Zhang and co-directors Dr. Amy Thompson and Dr. Ravi Gorthala along with the SNE-IAC engineering students and Communications Specialist, Shruthi Nagaraj. Ronald Araujo, Director of Energy Efficiency at Eversource Energy, Hammad Chaudhry, Senior Manager of Conservation and Load Management at AVANGRID, Neil Beup, Head of Global Government Affairs at Linde and Beth Devine, Chair – Connecticut Manufacturers’ Resource Group (CTMRG), attended and represented some of the SNE-IAC partner organizations.

Figure 2: L to R: Dr. Ravi Gorthala, Ronald Araujo, Neil Beup, Dr. Amy Thompson, Dr. Liang Zhang, Hammad Chaudhry and Shruthi Nagaraj

Dr. Zhang gave the Secretary and other guests an overview of the SNE-IAC activities and plans for conducting future audit assessments. The Secretary viewed the industrial assessment instrumentation and software and she spoke with the students about preparing for the industrial audits. Secretary Granholm was pleased to know that SNE-IAC plans to start the audit assessments during June 2022 and that six companies in Connecticut have already signed up to obtain audits. 

“Secretary Granholm’s visit to the University of Connecticut was a morale-boosting event. Her active presence and dialogue brought an aura of trust, motivation, and loyalty that people need in these difficult times. And her visit not only addressed the administration’s current needs for energy, but also the administration’s directive and commitment towards clean conflict-free energy. Hopefully, in the coming

Figure 3: L to R: Emmanouil (Manos) Anagnostou, SNE-IAC Student – Prat Patil, Secretary Granholm, President Maric, Dr. Liang Zhang, U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney

decade those technologies will flourish into wide-spread adoption and may equitably supply energy to all communities across the country,” says Prat Patil, a SNE-IAC student and doctoral student in mechanical engineering from the University of New Haven. 

“The Secretary’s visit was a great experience because I had the chance to witness the diversity and integrity of efforts from different levels of academia, industry, and government that are directed into the sectors of sustainable and environmentally friendly energy-efficient science and engineering. I had the opportunity to meet other researchers and industry professionals, and as an international graduate student this was a great opportunity for me to build a network and professional relationships,” says Khaled Djebbari Sr., who is a current doctoral student in environmental engineering at UConn and an SNE-IAC student.  

Secretary Granholm’s visit to the SNE-IAC, and her press release announcement about expanding the IAC program and funding, shows her and the DoE’s strong support for the IAC program nationwide,” says Dr. Amy Thompson, UConn SNE-IAC Assistant Director and the Associate Director for the Institute for Advanced Systems Engineering. “The SNE-IAC students were excited to meet Secretary Granholm and prepared their instrumentation and software to demonstrate some of the tools and methods the students will use to assess industrial facilities in Connecticut. The SNE-IAC

Figure 4: SNE-IAC Students – Alain Olhaberry, Khaled Djebbari Sr., and Center lead Student Yishu Bai

program is key to developing an energy engineering and manufacturing workforce in Connecticut. The engineering students get a great opportunity through the SNE-IAC program to build on the engineering theory they learn in their engineering courses and apply their knowledge in the field at industrial sites. There is nothing like the experience of learning first-hand in an industrial facility how to use instrumentation and sensors to collect data for recommending energy efficiency and operational improvements. The students get a chance to work with real full-scale equipment in the field, which promotes hands-on experiential learning. The students who participate in the SNE-IAC program are expected to develop a stronger technical and professional skill set, which means we are better preparing our UConn engineering graduates for their first jobs. The knowledge, methods, and examples that SNE-IAC Directors create through developing and running the program at UConn will be disseminated into new courses and content to share the energy assessment methods and techniques with the broader engineering student community at UConn. We also appreciate the support from the ENERGIZE CT programs and the Conservation and Load Management programs at Eversource and United Illuminating in helping us develop best assessment practices that will result in the highest levels of

Figure 5: The tour stopping in SNE-IAC lab at IPB

rebates and incentives for companies participating in the UConn SNE-IAC program.”

After touring the SNE-IAC, Secretary Granholm then went on to visit the Center for Clean Energy Engineering which is an interdisciplinary research center focusing on building the next generation of energy technologies. Once this tour was completed, the Secretary’s final stop was for a press conference.

Figure 6: L to R: Secretary Granholm, CT State Senator Mae Flexer, Congressman Joe Courtney, CT DEEP Commissioner Katie Schraf Dykes, State Representative Dr. Jaime S. Foster, UConn Interim President Maric. At the stand introducing the Secretary is SNE IAC student Amogh Garuda Dhwajan

At the press conference, one of the SNE-IAC’s current students, Amogh Garuda Dwajan, had the honor of introducing the Secretary and inviting her to the podium. “It was a pleasure to meet  Secretary Granholm, Congressman Courtney, and UConn’s President Maric. Getting the opportunity to speak with and show the Secretary the progress we’ve made at the IAC was a privilege, and to introduce her to the podium was an honor,” said Amogh about his exciting experience. 

Among the other distinguished guests present at the press conference were United States Congressman Joe Courtney, Commissioner Katie Scharf Dykes Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Connecticut State Senator Mae Flexer, Dr. Jaime S. Foster, State Representative in the Connecticut General Assembly, Paul Lavoie, Chief Manufacturing Officer for the State of Connecticut, and a member of the SNE-IAC industrial advisory board.

Secretary Granholm later tweeted that she was “delighted” to have toured UConn’s engineering centers and spoken with their students during her visit to eastern Connecticut. 

“The Secretary’s visit was truly inspirational,” says Dr. Liang Zhang, the SNE-IAC Director. “Along with the announcement of the five additional IACs, this sends out a strong message about the importance of the IAC program in the nation. For a new IAC like us, this also urges our team to devote our diligence to this program to bring it up to full speed as soon as possible and maximize its value in helping the small and medium-sized manufacturers in the region and in educating future energy engineers.”

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