Benjamin F. Hobbs, the Theodore M. and Kay W. Schad Professor of Environmental Management, uses systems analysis and economics to improve electric utility planning, operations, and policy, as well as management of environmental and water resources systems. Hobbs was the founding director of the former Johns Hopkins’ Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute, and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics. A member of the Johns Hopkins faculty since 1995, he is co-director of the USEPA Yale-JHU Solutions for Energy, Air, Climate, and Health (SEARCH) Center, an interdisciplinary team that studies how power generation trends, climate change, and public policy interact to affect air quality.
As an example of his research, Hobbs’ lab is working with IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Texas at Dallas, and two power grid operators on a project to better forecast sunshine and backup power needs. Traditional power suppliers now have to predict how much power a region will need a day in advance, potentially overestimating or underestimating demand. Hobbs’ project aims to significantly improve solar forecasting, using artificial intelligence and data analytics, so the nation’s grid operators know precisely, and in advance, how much power to produce for any given day and hour. They will test the system initially in California and in the central part of the United States.
Additional research projects are evaluating the performance of so-called “green infrastructure” for reducing water pollution and storm runoff in cities; investigating emerging energy transitions in the U.S. and the resulting air pollution and health outcomes, and managing the uncertain and variable power output from wind turbines.
Hobbs is on the editorial boards of several journals, such as Energy Economics, Journal of Energy Markets, EURO Journal on Decision Processes, Economics of Energy & Environmental Policy, and Competition and Regulation in Network Industries. He chairs the Market Surveillance Committee of the California Independent System Operator. Hobbs also is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS).
Hobbs received his BS degree from South Dakota State University in 1976. He earned a master’s degree in resources management and policy from SUNY-Syracuse in 1978 and a PhD in environmental systems engineering from Cornell University in 1983. He worked at Brookhaven and Oak Ridge National Laboratories and was a professor of systems and civil engineering for Case Western Reserve University before joining the Johns Hopkins faculty. He has had visiting appointments at many universities and research labs, including being an Overseas Fellow at Churchill College at Cambridge University.