As he participates in a newly formed state steering committee that will help develop a plan to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions in the years ahead, Michael Ahern spoke of the personal stake he shares in such an endeavor and the history of environmental action that tells him it can be done.
“I’m a grandfather now and this only adds to my realization that our planet is a kind of lifeboat for all of us,” said Ahern, director of Power Systems in the Academic and Corporate Engagement Department at WPI, and an instructor in the Foisie Business School (FBS).
“I remember what the U.S. was like back when I graduated from WPI in 1978,” he said. “This was about the beginning of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act successes. At that time, we had smog alerts and it would be unhealthy to let your skin touch many of our rivers.
“My IQP (Independent Qualifying Project) concerned cleaning up the Nashua River here in Central Massachusetts," he said, "and now the water quality is greatly improved,” Ahern said. “As a result, I know that public policy and enabling technology can really make a difference in our shared environment.“
So Ahern has accepted the invitation of state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides to join a 20-member 80x50 Study Academic Steering Committee assembled to help develop a study and strategies for Massachusetts to meet a self-imposed mandate requiring at least an 80 percent reduction in 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2050.
In her letter of invitation, the secretary cited Ahern’s “important work in electric utility operations” as a reason he was selected to serve on the committee.
Even before coming to WPI in 2012, Ahern had built a widely respected career over more than 30 years in the electric power industry, serving as a member of the Electric Power Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee and on a number of study steering committees for the Connecticut Society of Scientists and Engineers.
At WPI, he has been active in the university’s annual Energy Symposium and its robust graduate Electrical and Computer Engineering/Power Systems Engineering Programs, as well as in federally sponsored Power Grid Cybersecurity research work.
Ahern leads a group that develops graduate curriculum for many of the 1,000+ working professionals who are part-time WPI graduate students. He also has taught the FBS graduate course in Risk Management and Decision Making, and has developed and taught several customized professional development courses for a variety of industry sponsors.
“Michael has a great background as both a practitioner and an academic, through his previous work in the utility sector, as well as his current role as Director of Power Systems at WPI,” said Claire Miziolek, who is leading the state’s 18-month study and developing a roadmap for achieving the 2050 goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a primary cause of global warming and its effects on climate change. “Mike has already brought valuable insights to the committee and we are looking forward to his future contributions.”