Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Main content start

The 'people' side of energy

For Dimitri Saad, understanding the path to net-zero requires engaging not only with data, but also with the communities involved.

Profile photo of Dimitri Saad under the arches of Stanford's Main Quad
Photo credit: Courtesy of Dimitri Saad.

Dimitri Saad’s early interest in energy started when he would watch superhero movies as a child. He was fascinated by the idea that, behind the characters’ flashy suits, energy was responsible for all their power.

Now a PhD candidate in Energy Science and Engineering, Saad initially considered pursuing energy conversion or material science research before “mistakenly” finding himself in energy modeling. It was an iterative process to get there, he said, “but in retrospect I’m very thankful, because I don’t want to do anything else.”

Saad’s research aims to understand the optimal path to reach net-zero emissions in California. Working with advisors Adam Brandt and Inês Azevedo, he models different energy systems – focusing specifically on battery and hydrogen storage – to determine where, when, and how much of a particular system to install throughout the state.

Although he appreciates studying systems on a large scale, Saad also recognizes the community-level implications of his research. “These decisions are going to have a lot of impacts on people,” he said. “For me, the energy problem is more of a human problem.”

In other words, Saad explained, addressing today’s energy challenges depends on involving stakeholders in decisions and informing people about the issues.

Saad gained this perspective in part from conversations with his friends. Surprised to learn that they lacked an understanding of concepts he found straightforward, he was inspired to create an educational Instagram account. Carbon Countdown, which provides bite-sized lessons on energy topics, was his way to “close the gap” of knowledge about the energy transition.

“I felt that we all need to have this understanding,” he said.

Saad has enjoyed the spontaneous interactions he’s sparked with followers of the account, and deeply values discussions he’s had throughout his career with people from diverse backgrounds. Having lived in three countries – Lebanon as a child, Switzerland for his master’s degree, and now the U.S. – has given him an openness to a variety of perspectives, he said.

He never shies away from a healthy debate, welcoming disagreement as an opportunity to expand his perspective. It’s another reason why he appreciates the human side of working in energy.

“I always come out of [conversations] with a new blend of approaches,” he said. “Just when you think you know everything, there’s something else. You never stop learning.”

Explore More