Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

All day
Before 01
CSTPR Noontime Seminar

CSTPR Noontime Seminar

Renewable Energy in Africa: Findings from the Social Sciences

by Kathleen Hancock
Colorado School of Mines

Abstract: Despite being blessed with energy resource abundance, sub-Saharan African states face numerous energy challenges, including low rates of access to electricity, decaying infrastructure, cook stoves that shorten lives, and reliance on wood that leads to deforestation. High rates of corruption, low levels of democracy, and geographically large states with primarily rural communities further complicate these challenges. Meanwhile, new oil and gas finds are enriching some states. However, developing these fields will increase greenhouse gas emissions, and there is substantial evidence that petroleum goes hand-in-hand with corruption, authoritarianism, gender and economic inequality, the so-called “resource curse.” As a result, many political leaders and communities favor growth through renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. With this in mind, social scientists have turned their attention to figuring out which programs work, and which do not, thus enabling Africa to leapfrog petroleum-fueled growth and go straight to clean energy-fueled growth. In this talk, I summarize some of the major findings from research in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, and the West African region. Research topics include mini-grids, solar energy centers, gender and energy, the role of PhD programs in Africa, carbon finance, and mega hydroelectric dams. While the findings come from research in and on Africa, many of the lessons apply more broadly. The talk concludes with a discussion of opportunities for further research and overcoming research challenges in the field.

Kathleen J. Hancock (PhD, University of California, San Diego) is Associate Professor at the Colorado School of Mines, where she is the Director of the soon-to-be launched Global, Energy, and Policy Studies Program and of the Masters program on natural resources policy and the co-Director of the Energy Minor. Her current book project develops a theory on the politics of renewable energy, with case studies on Germany, Brazil, South Africa, and the state of Colorado. She is co-editing the first Oxford Handbook on Energy Politics. Her recently published work focuses on the intersection of regionalism and energy issues, particularly renewable energy in Africa. She is the editor of and contributor to a 2015 special issue on renewable energy in Africa, published in the journal Energy Research & Social Science. She has papers under review and working papers on the regional electricity grid and markets in West Africa, the potential “curse” of hydroelectric dams, and the political foundations of the ECOWAS Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Center. Before working on Africa and renewable energy, Dr. Hancock analyzed regionalism in Eurasia. In her book Regional Integration: Choosing Plutocracy, she develops a theory on how great powers economically integrate the states in their regions. She has published articles in journals such as International Studies Perspective, Foreign Policy Analysis, Asian Perspective, and China and Eurasia Forum and book chapters on energy security in the developing world, Eurasian economic integration, and African economic trade. In 2015-16, she was a senior scholar at the Free University-Berlin. Her work has been funded by the German foundation Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, International Studies Association, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation/MacArthur Fellowship, the Institute for International Education, and the Institute for Security and Development Policy. She is on the editorial board for Energy Research & Social Science; coordinates an international group of scholars and practitioners working on the international political economy of resources and energy; and has been the principal investigator for five workshops on the international political economy of energy and natural resources. She has also published on gender issues the international relations discipline and is working with colleague on gender and scholarship in the computer science field. Prior to earning her PhD, Dr. Hancock worked in Washington, DC for 10 years during which time she earned a Masters in Science, Technology, and Public Policy, was a lobbyist for the Federation of American Scientists, and was a senior analyst with the Government Accountability Office in the National Security and International Affairs Division.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017
12:00pm to 1:00pm


CSTPR Conference Room

Event Type

Cryospheric and Polar Processes Seminar

Cryospheric and Polar Processes Seminar

Dr. Sebastian Schmidt
University of Colorado

Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Title: “Understanding the atmospheric drivers of Arctic sea ice variability – the role of past and future aircraft experiments”


This seminar will explore how aircraft observations can be used to study atmosphere-radiation-surface interactions in the Arctic. Although shortcomings in model predictions of sea ice and atmospheric parameters play out on different spatial and temporal scales, they cannot be addressed separately because the atmosphere and the surface interact through different mechanisms that depend on region, season, and prevalent synoptic regimes. One can argue that this is precisely the challenge for future Arctic experiments. Aircraft observations are not the immediately obvious choice for studying complicated interaction processes, especially when these manifest themselves on variegated scales or magnitudes. Fortunately, we have learned a lot from recent radiation science experiments where aircraft observations were synthesized with ground-based and satellite data within a modeling framework. When integrated in such a way, airborne measurements turn out to be a key component in an observational strategy that can access interaction processes with adequate detail. I will give examples of this emerging trend, discuss some of the lessons learned, and touch on new capabilities. Building on these, I will motivate a new experiment initiative with science questions that link Arctic clouds, atmospheric structure, surface conditions, radiation and precipitation. A central goal is to diagnose (and ultimately improve) the ability of different models to trace Arctic clouds throughout their lifetime in a way that is consistent with merged airborne, surface, and satellite observations. I will present an evolving strategy for capturing the various scale-dependent interaction processes with observational approaches inherited from prior experiments, and invite the audience to join in the discussion of the most relevant science questions.

Please contact Mistia Zuckerman at if you have any questions


Wednesday, April 12, 2017


East Campus, RL-2, room 155

Event Type

Job Mentoring Mashup: Outside Academia

Job Mentoring Mashup: Outside Academia

These are some of the benefits you may gain:
Obtain career guidance from scientists in the private, non-profit, and federal/state job sectors
Personal development
The event will be split into 2 one-hour blocks. Mentors from different employment sectors will be available for one or both time slots and will rotate between tables of CGA members so that you can get the most out of your experience.

When: Wednesday, April 12th, 2017, 5:00-7:00 pm
Where: Backcountry Pizza (2319 Arapahoe Avenue)
Who: Claudia Capitini, Maven Consulting
Burke Minsley, US Geological Survey
Ken Nowak, Bureau of Reclamation
Stuart Cohen, National Energy Renewable Lab
Todd Sanford, Climate Central
Scott Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency
David Hulslander, National Ecological Observatory Network
Andrea Ray, NOAA Earth System Research Lab,


Wednesday, April 12, 2017
5:00pm to 7:00pm

Event Type