AFCEA Bethesda Smart Tech Symposium Interview Series: Seth Guikema, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University

AFCEA Bethesda Smart Tech Symposium Interview Series: Seth Guikema

On October 23, AFCEA Bethesda is hosting an innovative educational symposium for government and industry participants who are or want to be on the cutting edge of smart technology and sustainability. The goals of the event are to make the business case for sustainability, show “big data” applications for energy management, highlight accomplishments with smart building technologies, illustrate saving from effective Federal fleet management, data center energy efficiencies and sustainability leading practices, articulate the connection between data centers and sustainability, and explain the impact of recent regulations and policy related to sustainability for IT procurement.

The AFCEA Smart Tech Symposium Social Media Team put together a mini series of interviews with Academic Experts on related subject matter, to get them to provide insight into their research and how they play a part in building the business case for sustainability on a daily basis through their work.

Our third interview is with Seth Guikema, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University. He also has an appointment as an adjunct professor at the University of Stavanger in Norway and he is a consultant with Innovative Decisions, Inc. in Vienna, VA. He serves as an Associate Editor for the ASCE Journal of Infrastructure Systems, and is a past president of the Engineering and Infrastructure Specialty Group of the International Society for Risk Analysis.

Professor Guikema, thanks for joining us virtually. Can you give us a brief overview of your research focuses and the kinds of problems your research group tackles on a daily basis?

My research focuses on modeling, measuring, and improving the reliability, resilience, and sustainability of infrastructure networks and urban areas in disaster-prone areas. Because disasters cause so much costly damage to urban systems, an urban area cannot be fully sustainable if its critical infrastructure is not reliable and resilience in the face of natural and human-induced disasters. My recent work has particularly focused on modeling the impacts of hurricanes on coastal energy and water systems. Additional work in my group has focused on terrorism risk analysis for energy and other networked systems.

Tell us about how your research fits into the broader framework of building a business case for sustainability.

Addressing sustainability of an area, organization, or system without addressing disaster risk, reliability, and resilience for that entity ignores a large part of the problem. Disasters cause tremendous damage to systems, inducing large financial, environmental, and social burden. An area, organization, or system cannot be sustainable if it is not appropriately prepared for handing disasters. My research helps organizations achieve this preparation, thus reducing their long-run cost of doing business.

How can climate change and climate variability impact the reliability of the grid? How can you use predictive modeling for making critical public policy decisions?

Climate change and variability can affect the grid in many ways, and researchers are working to better understand these. A couple of the potential impacts are through changes in the frequency or severity of hurricanes that directly damage power systems and through the potential for increased likelihood of forced outages for thermal generating plants as the water temperatures of water bodies increase. This, in some cases, has already led to plants with once-through cooling being forced to shut down due to potential for violating constraints on temperatures in receiving water bodies. Predictive modeling can help decision makers better understand the impacts. For example, my research group has developed methods for forecasting power outages due to hurricanes, and we are extending this model to look at the impacts of changes in hurricane hazards in a changing climate and the changes in risk of power outages due to this. Carefully validated prediction models are key to helping decision makers understand these impacts with models that they can have confidence in.

How will widespread implementation of smart grid technologies influence businesses and consumer choices surrounding energy and resource management?

The answer to this really depends on how the systems are implemented and how wide-spread their adoption is. In a best-case scenario, smart grids will induce substantial changes in consumer behavior and generator choices, leading to less-polluting, more efficient grids. But substantial changes and success in implementation will have to happen before we get there. The impacts of smart grids on power system reliability is still an open question in need of additional study.

Thank you to Professor Guikema for giving us his time, effort, and insight into how his research illustrates how sustainable practices can affect consumers and businesses alike.

If you would like to learn more and keep these discussions going, attend the AFCEA Smart Tech Symposium. The event link, complete with the agenda and confirmed speakers is listed below.

Event link:

Confirmed Speakers:

Who Should Attend:

  • Agency representatives releasing new IT contracts, including data center consolidation
  • Agency representatives responsible for achieving the goals in their agency’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan
  • Industry representatives looking for new opportunities outside the CIO’s office for IT, including cloud, big data, and mobility
  • Company executives that need to understand the business case for incorporating sustainable practices into their overall corporate strategy and operations
  • Federal capture and business development executives needing to be informed about government-wide trends
  • Small business representatives and system integrators interested in teaming opportunities

Learning objectives include:

  • New opportunities for traditional IT companies in this trend of “smart” facilities
  • New training and organizational change opportunities associated with this trend
  • Insight on how to position your IT offerings to help government use “big data” to increase sustainability of operations and reduce operating costs
  • Education for the private sector to create solutions that enable the government to realize the goals of the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship
  • Case studies on how agencies have achieved cost savings by operating more sustainably
  • Information on new tools, processes and methodologies in sustainability
  • Details on agency requirements, including specific policies, mandates, and recent executive orders

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