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College of Engineering and Applied Science


Elliot Cohen


Elliot Cohen is a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering at the University of Colorado Denver. He is also a third-year NSF research fellow at CU Denver’s interdisciplinary Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (CSIS) where he collaborates with faculty and students to produce novel research related to water and energy footprints for cities. Elliot’s current research with advisor and CSIS program director, Dr. Anu Ramaswami, develops a trans-boundary, infrastructure-based water footprint for cities that focuses on supply chain risks to energy systems. This analysis encompasses electricity generation, heating fuels and transportation fuels used in a city’s residential, commercial and industrial sectors, including the life-cycle supply chain effects for producing these energy carriers within and across city boundaries (hence trans-boundary). This trans-boundary water footprint for cities makes it possible to quantitatively assess environmental and economic tradeoffs between water and energy use, infrastructure design and policy options. Furthermore, it leads to the development of a stochastic model for risk assessment at critical water-energy infrastructure nodes such as power plants (which rely on water for cooling) and biofuel producing areas (which rely on water for irrigation). Future research will integrate non-stationarity in local water resources due to natural and anthropogenic variability in the global hydroclimate to generate more robust estimates of water supply constraints to urban energy systems.

Beyond his dissertation research, Elliot has contributed to analysis on the life-cycle environmental impacts of electricity generating technologies during a one-year assignment at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. This research went on to be published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a special report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (see: 2011 Summary for Policymakers). Prior to that, Elliot contributed research and synthesis reports of carbon-mitigation strategies to the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP), which provides recommendations to the Obama administration on how to address anthropogenic climate change under executive authority. Elliot has also held research assignments and internships at the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Policy and International Affairs, Office of Economic Analysis and at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Buildings and Fire Research Laboratory, Office of Indoor Air Quality.

Outside of science and engineering, Elliot is an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and fly-fishing near his home in Boulder, Colorado as well as multi-week expeditions in some of the most remarkable wilderness on Earth.


Burkhardt, J. J., Heath, G. and Cohen, E. (2012), Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Trough and Tower Concentrating Solar Power Electricity Generation. Journal of Industrial Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-9290.2012.00474.x

Cohen, E., Noiva, K., Krones, J. (2012), Visualizing the spatiotemporal domain of water resource constraints to urban energy systems. Paper presented at the Third International Engineering Systems Symposium, CESUN 2012, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands, June 18-20, 2012.

Kennedy, C., and Cohen, E. (2011), "Economic and Social Aspects of Climate Change in Cities, Epilogue: Perspectives from the 5th Urban Research Symposium." In Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an Urgent Agenda, Daniel Hoornweg, Mila Freire, Marcus J. Lee, Perinaz Bhada-Tata, and Belinda Yuen, eds. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Cohen, E., & Ramaswami, A. (2011) Water Footprint of Urban Energy Systems: A Case Study of Denver, Colorado. Presentation at ISIE Conference, Berkeley, California, June 7-10, 2011. | Physical Address: 1380 Lawrence St., Ste. 500  Denver, CO  80204 | Mailing Address: University of Colorado Denver, SPA, Campus Box 142, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364 | ph: 303.315.2228 | fax: 303.315.2229 | SPA Website Feedback

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