Paul Lau '84 (Electrical Power Engineering)

A cycle of sustainability

Paul Lau
To use a recycling metaphor, they’re coming full circle.

Sac State alumni are returning to the campus where they earned degrees that led to careers in environmental services, clean energy and sustainability to work on projects or provide services to help the campus do more of the same.

Paul Lau is SMUD’s assistant general manager for customer, distribution and technology. As an undergraduate, he interned for SMUD. Today, he oversees a number of joint SMUD-Sac State energy efficiency projects, including the California Smart Grid Center. Located on the Sac State campus, Smart Grid is California’s primary center for applied research on emerging smart grid technologies which apply advanced computer intelligence and networking abilities to the electricity delivery system.

This focus on clean energy, reduced consumption and maximized energy efficiency is not random coincidence, notes Mike Christensen (’10, Educational Leadership), Sac State’s director of environmental health and safety, and chair of the University’s Sustainability Committee. It’s a reflection of the University’s increased focus on “making today’s decisions without compromising the needs of future generations.”

The Sustainability Committee first met in 2007, bringing together campus and community representatives from several areas, including academics and governance, environmental health and safety, purchasing, transportation, planning, dining services, recycling and waste management.

Members of the committee have influenced a number of sustainability projects on campus, including construction of two Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings (American River Courtyard student housing and The Well fitness and recreation center), new recycling and food composting programs, installation of solar panels to recharge electric vehicles and the use of alternative fuels on fleet buses.

Lau is grateful for the mentoring he received from Power Engineering Professor Milica Markovich at a time when he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study.

“True to my professor’s word, I had multiple job offers even before graduation,” Lau says, and he took the one offered by SMUD. With the California Smart Grid Center, he says, “we’re partnering with Sac State to see how a university can upgrade older facilities and antiquated systems in as many as 45 buildings using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“We’re also working with the dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Sac State on an educational component, to bring students into real work experiences such as transformer and relay testing. Sac State teaches the students about the process in theory, and when they can put it into practice, it’s a win-win situation for all of us.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2011 edition of Sac State Magazine.