Energy and environment initiative turns 10, keeps growing

New name, additional emphasis ahead for rechristened I-CARES: InCEES

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton speaks at the 10th anniversary celebration of the university's International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, or InCEES, formerly I-CARES. (Photo: Mary Butkus/Washington University)

This Earth Day, leaders at Washington University in St. Louis announced a new name and an increased emphasis on the university’s united energy and environment effort: the International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, or InCEES.

The renamed InCEES is a collaborative initiative across Washington University and involves its many international partner universities.

“When we formed the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-CARES) in 2007, notice it did not include the word ‘environment,’ ” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said at the April 22 event in Knight Hall. “So today, on Earth Day 2017, the 10-year anniversary of the founding, we are changing the name.”

They are altering some of the emphasis, too. Wrighton singled out a handful of areas for  additional affirmation and renewed commitment under InCEES:

  • Continue to stimulate major energy, environment and sustainability research projects across the campus with seed funding.
  • Increase international participation. While stressing the interdisciplinary nature of the partners comprising the current InCEES model — Office of Sustainability, Tyson Research Center,  Environmental Studies Program, Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization, Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center and the Washington University Climate Change Initiative — the McDonnell Academy Global Energy & Environment Partnership (MAGEEP) as well as the McDonnell International Scholars Academy will be counted upon to enhance support and assistance abroad.
  • Increase the focus on the environment, hence its place in the new name.
  • Make it a priority for greater unification across university channels regionally and internationally to stress the areas of energy, environment and sustainability. “We have more work to do; all members of the community can make contributions,” Wrighton said.

“I want to underscore these last two parts,” he added. “These issues are going to continue to be a priority for Washington University. Considering the magnitude of the challenge and the potential adversity to the world, this is the responsibility of every major research university. As we travel and interact with leading faculty and students at our partner institutions, they share this commitment. Implementing these solutions is going to require international collaboration.”

The chancellor’s comments were echoed by Himadri B. Pakrasi, InCEES director, the Myron and Sonya Glassberg/Albert and Blanche Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor and professor of energy in the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “With more than 1 billion people globally lacking access to electricity, and with total energy demand expected to increase by almost 50 percent by 2040, it is critical that we work together to identify solutions and systems that provide access to electricity without adversely affecting the environment,” Pakrasi said. “The costs of not addressing the challenges are great and won’t be equally shared by everyone. Energy poverty and the impacts of climate change are social justice issues. We all have a role to play, and the work we do at Washington University will benefit all people everywhere.”

Wrighton’s remarks before roughly 200 alumni, faculty and community partners followed a group of presentations on:

  • international activities and solar research by MAGEEP Director Pratim Biswas, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Professor of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering;
  • Solar Decathlon and sustainable communities by Hongxi Yin, the InCEES associate professor in advanced building systems and architectural design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts;
  • environmental initiatives by David Fike, InCEES associate director and associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences;
  • energy initiatives by Pakrasi;
  • and a student perspective by Rachel Westrate, a 2016 Washington University graduate.

The keynote address was offered by Peter Wyse Jackson, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the George Engelmann Professor of Botany.

“Climate change and environmental degradation undermine progress achieved, and poor people suffer the most,” Wyse Jackson told the audience. “Each year, it gets harder and harder to achieve sustainability.”

Wrighton effectively concluded the event by looking back at the brief history of the Washington University-led initiative: “Ten years is just the beginning in terms of the magnitude of what we are going to have to do in order to address this major challenge in the world.”

For more information about InCEES, see or @INCEESWUSTL on Twitter.

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