2050: Susan Babinec – The Storage Slayer

What is your job?
Program Lead, Stationary Storage, Argonne National Laboratory. I work on energy storage.

How are you helping cool the planet through your work?
Last year was the sixth warmest since 1850. Among 25 countries registering record temperatures were China and Nigeria. Driving up carbon emissions and global temperatures are gas-powered transport, heating and cooling, and electricity. Today those sectors kick in 21 gigatons of emissions. With greener sources growing their share of the energy mix, the key bottleneck in ramping up renewable energy use is storage — or a lack thereof — so that stored green energy can be used on dark, windless, or cloudy days, over blizzards and storms, and be transmitted to other areas across the grid. Storage will help the world pivot to 100% renewable energy.

What most surprised you about your job?
The range of technologies required to curb climate change. Since CO2 emissions come from all major industrial processes and industry, we need an “all in” approach. Another surprise was the global nature of my work on clean energy.

What can we do to get more young people into public service?
Better recruitment. How about running ads describing career paths in scientific journals? Perhaps high-level philanthropies or companies can support the cost? Underscoring the urgent need for top minds to work together on solutions for the climate crisis will also help. So will messaging about joining the largest team ever assembled to work on the largest existential problem ever faced, plus the incredible satisfaction that comes from committing yourself to an issue as important as climate change. Even the most frustrating day brings excitement and satisfaction. As for training, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Labs (including Argonne) offer outstanding postdoc and on-site training. I also advise they attend some of the five-minute live LinkedIn conversations with experts, which can shed light on many exciting opportunities.

Carolyn Whelan

Carolyn is a writer, editor and analyst who covers the nexus between business and social justice issues. She broke into journalism at the Rio Earth Summit where she interviewed Al Gore and environmental pioneer David Brower. Topics covered since then range from climate change and higher education costs to drugs pricing, geopolitical strife, business ethics, artificial intelligence, gene editing, alternative energy and the search for good jobs -- and innovation in all these areas. Her pieces, reported from Europe, the US and South America have appeared in Fortune, Newsweek, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and SciAm.com. Previously she worked for the Economist Intelligence Unit, Barrons.com, Columbia Business School, WWF, the UN and PwC. Carolyn is fluent in French and Spanish and resides in Brooklyn.

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