Solar Technical Assistance Team Profile: Eliza Hotchkiss
October 12, 2015 by Eliza Hotchkiss
Eliza Hotchkiss, newly appointed Policy and Technical Assistance Section Supervisor, starts STAT’s new fiscal year by answering six questions about her work.
What are your primary research interests?
My two major research interests are resilience and sustainability. As the laboratory lead for disaster planning, recovery, and resilience, my primary interests include how to prepare for and rebuild after disaster-related events in the most efficient and sustainable way. Preparing for disasters and rebuilding after a major disaster offers an opportunity for incorporating energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability to build a clean-energy future. Providing technical assistance to federal agencies and developing countries which have the opportunity to include emissions mitigation and smart-growth strategies is hugely rewarding. Smarter planning and development, which integrate resilience and sustainability principles, often make good business sense and help create a healthier world for future generations.
What did you do prior to joining NREL?
Prior to NREL, I lived and worked in England for a non-profit and for a consulting firm. Some of the most interesting projects involved conducting research and analysis for the U.K. government on topics such as energy efficient building codes, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), the validity of carbon offset programs through Clean Development Mechanisms, and providing technical recommendations for the European Parliament on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).
What has been your favorite project since coming to NREL?
One of the greatest aspects of working at NREL is the flexibility and diversity in our project work. As a member of the Integrated Applications Center, we take the research that is being done at the lab and apply it externally to determine what works well and how concepts can be improved. One of the most rewarding projects has been supporting developing countries through the USAID Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) program. Supporting various partner countries to identify solutions to their clean energy challenges involves working with international partners, learning about other countries’ cultures and unique needs, and provides an opportunity to be a creative problem solver.
What opportunities do you see for solar in 2016?
A lot of innovative, cutting-edge research is being done to improve efficiency, increase flexibility or applicability of solar technologies, and reduce costs. Developments in material science and the application of solar radiation data and how data is used (e.g., spreadsheets or smart phone applications) is helping to shape the type of research that is being done. Watching these breakthroughs and how they are applied will be interesting in 2016.
What challenges do you see for the solar industry in 2016?
I’m interested to see how solar does internationally as various incentives are due to expire in 2016. Without tax or financial incentives for solar, not only in the U.S. but also overseas in Spain and the U.K., it will be interesting to see the ramifications on the solar industry globally and whether there is an impact on other renewable energy technologies. As with most market incentives, the rate of uptake of a technology increases after an incentive is provided, but the true test is whether a market survives when those incentives are retired. This international phase-out could have a significant impact on the industry overall.
What are your non-work interests/activities?
Outside of work I enjoy hiking, biking, backcountry skiing, hut trips, fishing, rafting, canoeing, travel, live music, and playing and writing music.