The Patino-Echeverri Lab, led by Dalia Patino-Echeverri, Gendell Family Associate Professor, explores, assesses and proposes technological, policy and market approaches to contribute to the societal goal of striking a balance between environmental sustainability, affordability and reliability in electricity systems.

Postdoctoral associate Dimitris Floros, along with PhD students Tyler Norris and Xiaodong Zhang, recently shared insights into the Patino-Echeverri Lab, its research, their experiences in the lab and the opportunities the lab offers Duke students.

What is the lab's research focus and what big questions is it trying to answer? 

"Our research contributes to the societal goal of striking a balance between environmental sustainability, affordability, and reliability in electricity systems through technological, policy and market approaches. Since 2020, our U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) supported, A Grid that’s Risk-Aware for Clean Electricity (GRACE) project has focused on integrating uncertainty and risk considerations into short-term power system operations. In general, our research advances understanding in the following areas:

  • Identifying the sources of uncertainty that increase the financial and reliability risk of power systems and alternatives to better cope with this challenge and reduce environmental impacts.
  • Exploring the effects of electric power technologies and the possibilities and advantages of designing flexible policy mechanisms that consider the decision-making process and real options for regulation entities.
  • Assessing the economic, environmental, and reliability potential of renewable energy, storage, and emissions control technologies — particularly related to their operational flexibility (e.g., use of different fuels, varying power output levels), the uncertainty that affects their outcomes, and the implications for the systems where they are integrated.
  • Addressing the life-cycle, global and human dimensions of the energy and food sustainability challenge."

What has been your favorite or most rewarding experience in the lab so far? 

Patino-Echeverri lab members in Grainger Hall office

"The most rewarding experience is the opportunity to contribute directly to and address critical challenges in electrical systems, with the potential for tangible societal impacts. Specifically, our project GRACE focuses on (i) investigating the bottlenecks and sub-optimal components in the scheduling and dispatch of current electrical power systems, which may reduce the potential benefits of fast penetration of renewable energy sources; (ii) characterizing the uncertainty in the energy system using novel approaches that account for both intrinsic and exogenous risks; (iii) incorporating risk considerations, especially related to power-generating and storage assets, into the decision-making process; and (iv) optimizing reserve targets, which are currently sub-optimal in practice. By improving plant operation and scheduling, we contribute significantly to reducing emissions — a pivotal environmental goal for the coming decades."  

What opportunities does your lab offer students and how does that experience contribute to their academic and career growth? 

“The lab provides valuable experiences that foster both academic development and career growth:

  • Network & interdisciplinary collaboration: Members frequently engage with professionals and experts from diverse fields, attend conferences and participate in industry events. These interactions create essential networking opportunities, potentially leading to internships, job placements and mentorship. Students gain exposure to varied perspectives, enhancing their ability to tackle complex challenges.
  • Policy insights: Involvement in policy discussions and design equips students with a deeper understanding of the energy issues at the intersection of technology, regulation and societal impact. These insights are valuable for future careers in the energy sector or environmental science.
  • Research publications: Contributing to research papers enhances students' academic profiles and prepares them for careers in academia/ research/ industry.” 
Dalia and Patino-Echeverri Lab members pose with a research poster

Each month the Nicholas School will highlight the work of one of its labs through the lens of a lab member. For more information on Duke Environment research visit our research page and to keep up with the latest news, subscribe to our monthly Research + Impact email newsletter. Explore more about the Patino-Echeverri Lab on the lab's website.