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Energy Initiative, Nicholas Institute to merge as part of Duke’s effort to fight climate change

The addition of Environment Hall to campus is another change for the Nicholas School, and one that embraces the environmental sustainability goal of the school by employing utilities that are eco-friendly.
The addition of Environment Hall to campus is another change for the Nicholas School, and one that embraces the environmental sustainability goal of the school by employing utilities that are eco-friendly.

Duke is taking a new step towards fighting climate change.

The Duke Energy Initiative and Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions will merge, with a goal of creating a new unit that leverages their complementary goals. The resulting institute will hold a key role in Duke’s efforts to target climate change and its impacts. 

The transition, which began July 1, will be a gradual process over the next year. Many details, including the naming of the new unit, will continue to be solidified as the institute develops and cements itself. 

Leaders of the new unit are optimistic about the future of climate work at Duke, including Brian Murray, research professor in the division of environmental sciences and policy, former Energy Initiative director and interim director of the new unit.

“The new institute will be able to bring even more value to Duke students, alumni, faculty and external partners than either unit could on its own, extending Duke’s reach and societal impact,” Murray said. “It’s safe to say education, research and external engagement with decision makers will continue to be important parts of the new organization’s charge as we contribute to university-wide climate and environmental leadership efforts.”

Murray noted that the new institute will continue to offer a wide range of energy and environment planning for students and is excited to see how the merger will help “deepen and improve those educational programs, especially when it comes to climate solutions.”

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions was founded in 2005 to serve as a bridge between the University and policy makers, leveraging Duke’s expertise to address critical environmental challenges and create actionable solutions. Since 2011, the Duke Energy Initiative has developed interdisciplinary collaboration to advance an affordable, reliable and clean energy system, building programs to strengthen the University’s energy education, research and engagement efforts. The merger will support these individual efforts while bringing attention to underexplored topics as well.   

“The Energy Initiative was more of an internally focused institution working more in curricular and research coordination across campus, while the Nicholas Institute has been very focused on external engagement,” said Tim Profeta, associate professor of the practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy and founding director of the Nicholas Institute. “So, if you marry the Energy Initiatives’s capacity to work with the students and the faculty with the Nicholas Institute's robust external relationships, both missions will be strengthened.”  

Profeta added that it’s exciting that Duke wants to “lead on the climate issue at this critical time.”

“The goal of service to society is stronger than ever before in that regard," he said.

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