Building Bridges Between U.S. and Estonian Science and Energy Communities

Dr. Arun Majumdar (Photo: U.S. Embassy)
Dr. Arun Majumdar

U.S. Science Envoy Dr. Arun Majumdar was in Estonia this week and met with representatives from the scientific and academic communities to discuss energy efficiency, as well as ways to advance scientific research collaboration between the United States and Estonia.

Dr. Majumdar, who is the Jay Precourt Professor at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow of the Precourt Institute for Energy, was excited about Estonia’s innovative culture and the potential for collaboration, especially in the field of energy efficiency.

“I think there is a real opportunity to do things in a much bolder way — that will actually save people money — and help with the national security out here,” he said.

Energy efficiency, in Dr. Majumdar’s view, is part of a bigger energy picture. “Efficiency is one of those levers that can have economic impact, that can have national security impact and also has local job growth because it’s local. No one else is going to make Estonian buildings more efficient. It’ll be the Estonians.”

These efficiencies need to happen at a societal, as well as individual level, he said. For example, steps people can take to be more energy efficient could be as simple as remembering to turn off lights when they leave a room, or keeping the thermostat a bit lower in the winter or a bit higher in the summer. This will not only help save energy, it will save people money.  What societies can do is have smarter regulations to reduce energy consumption or get buildings operating and designed to be more efficient.

And all this well help individuals and countries combat climate change.

“Energy efficiency is cleanest form to address climate change. If you don’t have to use that energy, than you’re clean,” he said. “I think it’s a huge part of any climate action that is required.”

Dr. Majumdar met with representatives from the Estonian Research Council, the Ministry of Education and Research, Tartu University and Tallinn University of Technology (TTU). He also visited TTU’s Near-Zero Energy Building test facility.

The Science Envoy program is an initiative from President Obama designed to strengthen the United States’ science and education relationships abroad.  For Dr. Majumdar it’s also about telling the story of an aspect of U.S. culture that is less well known than Hollywood, jazz or rock music:  the U.S. scientific culture. “It’s one of the best feet we can put forward,” he said.

“The bigger job of the science envoy besides making individual connections is to have engagement,” he explained. “And not just with the scientific people, but the general public to explain what the U.S. and the world can do together in partnership.”