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Claudia Octaviano models electricity and oil sectors in Mexico

Though trained as an environmental economist, Claudia Octaviano is currently working towards her PhD in the Engineering Systems Division at MIT. But an economist among engineers isn’t as odd as it sounds; Claudia’s program integrates engineering, social sciences, and policy to address environmental issues.

“The idea within the Engineering Systems Divisions is that these are very complex issues that you won’t be able to solve just by looking at technology, or with just the economics,” she explains. “You need to integrate the three parts. They call it Complex Systems Analysis.”

Originally from Mexico, Claudia studied the costs to society from power plant pollution, moving on to air quality and evaluation techniques at Yale, and finally focusing on climate change. Her work with Mario Molina and the Mexican Minister of Energy, on developing energy pathways that could lead Mexico towards long-term economic development, led her to MIT in 2009.

Claudia’s work in the Joint Program centers on determining Mexico’s mitigation potential through the use of sectoral approaches. By implementing policies to decarbonize the electricity sector, for example, Mexico could trade emissions with other countries that have either economy-wide or sectoral cap-and-trade systems. Because the electricity sector contributes a big share of emissions, a sectoral cap could result in a significant environmental benefit. However, focusing only in one sector of the economy means higher costs and efficiency loss when compared to an economy-wide cap-and-trade system.

Still, Claudia’s opinion on the matter is: “Do you want an everything-or-nothing situation, or do we start with something? The International Energy Agency proposes that large developing countries can start [mitigation measures] through sectoral trading. It could be a first approach to an [economy-wide] cap-and-trade system.”

Claudia works to improve the Joint Program’s Emissions Prediction and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model to more accurately reflect the electricity and oil sectors in Mexico. Her research will reveal which technologies will become important in Mexico under different future climate policy scenarios. These findings will also determine the costs of alternative mitigation options.

Political will does not seem to be a barrier to addressing climate change in Mexico, Claudia explains. In fact, she believes the Mexican administration is very willing to address climate change but lacks funds. Yet beyond the issue of money, she also feels that capacity building and technology transfers from developed countries are crucial. “We can do a lot if we learn to prioritize and if we accelerate the state-of-the-art technologies available.”

Looking forward, Claudia draws inspiration from Dr. Mario Molina. “He is very influential. People don’t always want to hear only economic equations— they want to hear a story. We need someone like Dr. Molina to tell a story. I have my model… now how do I tell a story about it?”

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Researcher Highlights

Researcher Highlights

Category: Education | Updated 4 years ago

October 05, 2011 10:46
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