Thanks to the generous gift of University of Chicago Trustee Donald R. Wilson, Jr., AB ’88 and chief executive officer of principal trading firm DRW, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) will receive $5 million over the next five years to advance its interdisciplinary research, strategic outreach, and education and training efforts.
“We are so grateful to Don Wilson for this incredible gift,” says Michael Greenstone, the director of EPIC and Milton Friedman Professor of Economics, the College, and the Harris School. “It will allow EPIC to substantially expand our efforts to deliver cutting-edge, data-driven research focused on the world’s most complex energy challenges, to translate that knowledge into impact, and to prepare the next generation of global energy leaders at a critical time for our planet.”
“Energy significantly influences the health and growth of the entire economy and thoughtful research of global energy challenges, which is at the heart of EPIC’s mission, is
critical for understanding and action,” said Don Wilson. “This contribution will advance meaningful research to facilitate the discussion of energy policies that incorporate the economic effects of environmental impact.”
EPIC’s unique approach acknowledges that the complexity of the global energy challenge requires integrated insights drawn from diverse perspectives. Thus, the Institute relies on discovery through data-driven, interdisciplinary research that expands the boundaries of society’s understanding of energy issues. The gift will enhance these efforts by:
- Establishing an annual research seed fund program to incubate promising research, draw in faculty from throughout campus who may or may not have previously studied energy and climate issues, and support ongoing cutting-edge projects. This will allow EPIC to serve a critical role as central coordinator for this research, building an integrated, cohesive, and thriving energy research community.
- Supporting The Climate Impact Lab, a landmark interdisciplinary collaboration that expands beyond the University of Chicago focused on calculating the costs of climate change to society on a global and local scale. The Lab is working to drive more efficient energy policies today and to help communities around the world prepare for the risks of a changing global climate now and in the future.
In order for research insights to affect the real world, decision makers need to have access to tested ideas that work. That’s why EPIC works to translate its research into on-the-ground results through strategic outreach. Don Wilson’s generous support will allow EPIC to place an increased emphasis on outreach through:
- Enhanced traditional, digital and social media outreach, as well as dedicated events, forums and briefings in the energy policy capital of Washington, DC. This could include nontraditional media such as videos, infographics and other more visual assets. It could also include more targeted outreach to specific, tailored audiences such as through promotional media and intimate events for directed stakeholders. Additionally, it will add greater capacity to the communications and policy teams.
EPIC has a track record of success translating research into results. For example, upon the release of a first-of-its-kind evaluation of federal investments in residential energy efficiency in the United States calling for real-world performance analyses, an expansive media campaign was conducted that resulted in coverage in nearly every major U.S. media outlet, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Associated Press. Outreach also included a briefing for energy efficiency stakeholders in Chicago and private meetings in Washington, DC. Months later, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its final Clean Power Plan, a centerpiece of U.S. climate policy, the plan contained newly-added language requiring states to conduct such real-world performance analyses of any efficiency measures used to comply with the plan’s targets. The gift will provide further support for more robust future efforts by the EPIC communications and policy teams.
While outreach to today’s leaders is central to achieving impact, so is training the next generation of global energy leaders. As such, the gift also facilitates the development of hands-on learning, training and mentorship opportunities through the creation of a graduate fellowship program in energy policy. Fellows will work closely with faculty on a specific research project, supporting promising work and gaining valuable research skills in the process.