Feature Story | 6-Oct-2021

Brown takes new role with Climate Change Science Institute at ORNL

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Marilyn Brown of the Georgia Institute of Technology recently began a joint faculty appointment, or JFA, with the Climate Change Science Institute at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. As an internationally recognized leader in climate solutions and energy policy, Brown will collaborate with ORNL to apply insights from global climate science to inform regional strategies that reduce carbon emissions and equitably address impacts on communities.

The laboratory has long been a leader in climate science and clean energy technologies. Collaborating with Brown, a Regents professor and director of the Climate and Energy Policy Lab at the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy, will enhance ORNL’s focus on the intersection of climate, clean energy, sustainability and environmental justice.

One of the aims of the joint appointment is to develop strategic pathways for the Southeast to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by decarbonizing regionally important industries and activities.

“Marilyn has a wealth of expertise in working with diverse stakeholders to translate fundamental science into actionable mitigation and adaptation strategies,” said Moe Khaleel, interim deputy for science and technology and projects. “ORNL brings world-leading capabilities in supercomputing and large-scale experiments to advance understanding of climate change. Marilyn’s JFA will strengthen the laboratory’s expanding focus on creating tailored solutions for the region.”

Brown’s expertise is in the design and impact of policies that accelerate the development and deployment of sustainable energy technologies, with an emphasis on the electric utility industry, the integration of energy efficiency, demand response, solar resources and ways of improving resiliency to disruptions. Her work uses sophisticated energy-engineering models that have led to fact-based contributions to energy sustainability discussions.

Bridging the social and behavioral sciences, engineering and policy studies to advance climate solutions is a skill that Brown has demonstrated throughout her career. Through her leadership in the Drawdown Georgia project, for instance, Brown spearheaded discussions with stakeholders in government, industry and the community to explore ways to cut Georgia’s carbon impact by at least one-third in just 10 years.

“It’s the regionalization of climate adaptation and mitigation strategies that excites me the most, because I have done a lot of work internationally and nationally on these issues,” Brown said. “I've focused on the state of Georgia with the Drawdown Georgia project, and it's time now to back up and look a little bit more broadly at the region. Of course, ORNL is uniquely positioned to support development of sustainable solutions in the Southeast.”

One goal of the joint faculty appointment is to consider inclusion and environmental justice when developing climate strategies. “It is timely and critical that we consider the value of alternative investments in infrastructure and climate solutions through lenses of access and equity,” Brown said.

Brown co-founded the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, chaired its first Board of Directors for several years and served on the Boards of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Alliance to Save Energy. She served two terms as a presidential appointee and regulator on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public power provider, and led the Smart Grid Subcommittee during her term on DOE’s Electricity Advisory Committee.

Recognizing her global influence on climate policy initiatives, Brown was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. She contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Before her tenure at Georgia Tech, Brown worked at ORNL where she led two multi-laboratory climate change mitigation studies and directed the Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Electric Grid Program. She has served one previous joint appointment with the laboratory and is excited to re-engage through the Climate Change Science Institute.

Founded in 2009, the Climate Change Science Institute at ORNL advances understanding of the underlying ecosystem processes and the interactions between human and Earth systems that influence climate change. The institute brings together more than 130 scientists from diverse disciplines and integrates capabilities across the laboratory to improve global models that predict the planet’s current and future climate.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.

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