Eric Williams Headshot

Eric Williams


Department of Sustainability
Golisano Institute for Sustainability

Office Location

Eric Williams


Department of Sustainability
Golisano Institute for Sustainability


BA, Macalester College; Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook


Dr. Eric Williams teaches courses in risk analysis and sustainable energy systems for the MS, Ph.D., and M.Arch. programs. His research interests include informing policies supporting energy technology development in areas such as technology progress forecasting, heterogeneity in consumer energy markets and thermodynamic limits of efficiency, and exergy (available energy) analysis. His research has played a role in environmental certifications for electronics and he has had the honor to testify before Congress on electronic waste. His students say that he has a way of making complex methods and ideas as real and understandable as everyday experiences. When Dr. Williams is not working with his students, he enjoys cycling, games, and science fiction.

Prior to coming to RIT, Dr. Williams was an Assistant Professor for the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from Stony Brook University and his BA in Physics from Macalester College.


One of my major goals in the classroom is to help students develop a “down-to-earth” and “manipulate-able” understanding of the material. I see a tendency for classroom knowledge and methods to be processed as abstract rather than as grounded and able to be manipulated as everyday knowledge/experiences. I thus work to make lectures, discussions and assignments elicit fundamental understanding of the material.


To achieve its mission, sustainability research has to reach beyond the academic community. I engage with a broader set of stakeholders though a number of approaches. Media is an important venue, one needs to think about finding a “surprising” result of broad interest to garner interest. I also work to directly engage policy and industry communities through networking and workshops.

Highlighted Project

Simulating the build-out of the U.S. electricity grid with uncertainty to better manage costs and environmental impacts

Managing the evolution of the electricity grid is a critical economic and environmental challenge. Like other infrastructure, the electric grid is long-lived which exacerbates lock-in effects: capital investments, once made, last for decades and may delay the adoption of superior new technologies. This work will examine the effect that today's electricity infrastructure and policy decisions will have on the structure of the future electricity grid, using engineering and economic modeling to understand the complex relationships between infrastructure decisions, electricity policies, and technological progress. The results of this research will be valuable to both electricity grid planners and policy makers, both of whom make important long-term decisions about the U.S. electricity system. Improved understanding results in faster technological progress, more successful electricity policies, and a more economically efficient grid. 


Areas of Expertise

Select Scholarship

Journal Paper
Gaustad, Gabrielle, Eric Williams, and Alexandra Leader. "Rare earth metals from secondary sources: Review of potential supply from waste and byproducts." Resources, Conservation and Recycling 167. (2021): 105213. Print.
Williams, Eric, Vivekananda Das, and Andrew Fisher. "Assessing the Sustainability Implications of Autonomous Vehicles: Recommendations for Research Community Practice." Sustiainability 12. (2020): 1902. Web.
Das, Saptarshi, Eric Hittinger, and Eric Williams. "Learning is not Enough: Diminishing Marginal Revenues and Increasing Abatement Costs of Wind and Solar." Renewable Energy 156. (2020): 634-644. Print.
Millette, Sherwyn, Clyde Hull, and Eric Williams. "Business Incubators as Effective Tools for Driving Circular Economy." Journal of Cleaner Production 266. (2020): 121999. Print.
Das, Saptarshi, Eric Wilson, and Eric Williams. "The Impact of Behavioral and Geographic Heterogeneity on Residential-sector Carbon Abatement Costs." Energy and Buildings 231. (2021): 110611. Print.
Sandler, Simon, et al. "The nonlinear shift to renewable microgrids: Phase transitions in electricity systems." International Journal of Energy Research 45. (2021): 3016–3030. Print.
Millette, Sherwyn, Eric Williams, and Clyde Hull. "Materials Flow Analysis in Support of Circular Economy Development: Plastics in Trinidad and Tobago." Resources, Conservation and Recycling 150. (2019): 104436. Print.
Desai, Ranjit, et al. "Heterogeneity in Economic and Carbon Benefits of Electric Technology Vehicles in the U.S." Environmental Science and Technology 54. (2020): 1136. Print.
Williams, Eric, et al. "Empirical Development of Parsimonious Model for International Diffusion of Residential Solar." Renewable Energy 150. (2020): 570-577. Print.
Williams, Eric, Ashok Sekar, and Roger Chen. "Changes in Time use and their Effect on Energy Consumption in the United States." Joule 2. 3 (2018): 521-536. Print.
Das, Saptarshi, Gabrielle Gaustad, and Eric Williams. "Techno-economic Analysis of Supercritical Extraction of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Ash." Journal of Cleaner Production 189. (2018): 539-551. Print.
Sekar, Ashok, Eric Williams, and Roger Chen. "How Behavioral and Geographic Heterogeneity Affects Economic and Environmental Benefits of Efficient Appliances." Energy Policy 125. (2018): 537-547. Print.
Das, Saptarshi, et al. "Analyzing Potential Markets for Autonomous Vehicles Using Time-Use Data." Challenges 8. 3 (2017): 1-15. Web.
Williams, Eric, et al. "Wind Power Costs Expected to Decrease Due to Technological Progress." Energy Policy 106. (2017): 427-435. Print.
Goteti, Srujana Naga, Eric Hittinger, and Eric Williams. "How Much Wind and Solar Are Needed to Realize Emissions Benefits from Storage?" Energy Systems. (2017): 1-23. Web.
Bawden, Kimberly, Eric Williams, and Callie Babbitt. "Mapping product knowledge to life cycle inventory bounds: a case study of steel manufacturing." Journal of Cleaner Production 113. (2016): 557-564. Print.
Gutierrez-Aliaga, Lourdes and Eric Williams. "Co-alignment of comfort and energy saving objectives for U.S. office buildings and restaurants." Sustainable Cities and Society 27. (2016): 32—41. Print.
Sekar, Ashok, Eric Williams, and Roger Chen. "Heterogeneity in time and energy use of watching television." Energy Policy 93. (2016): 50-58. Print.
Matteson, Schuyler and Eric Williams. "Learning Dependent Subsidies for Lithium-ion Electric Vehicle Batteries." Technological Forecasting and Social Change 92. (2015): 322-331. Print.
Ryen, Erinn, Callie Babbitt, and Eric Williams. "Consumption-Weighted Life Cycle Assessment of a Consumer Electronic Product Community." Environmental Science and Technology 49. (2015): 2549-2559. Print.
Bawden, Kimberly and Eric Williams. "Hybrid Life Cycle Assessment of Low, Mid and High-Rise Multi-Family Dwellings." Challenges 6. (2015): 98-116. Web.
Kasulaitis, Barbara, et al. "Evolving Materials, Attributes, and Functionality in Consumer Electronics: Case Study of Laptop Computers." Resources, Conservation and Recycling 100. (2015): 1-10. Print.
Williams, Eric, et al. "Sun-to-Wheels Exergy Efficiencies for Bio-Ethanol and Photovoltaics." Environmental Science and Technology 49. (2015): 6394-6401. Print.
Matteson, Schuyler and Eric Williams. "Residual Learning Rates in Lead-acid Batteries: Effects on Emerging Technologies." Energy Policy 85. (2015): 71-79. Print.
Bawden, Kimberly, Eric Williams, and Callie Babbitt. "Mapping Product Knowledge to Life Cycle Inventory Bounds: A Case Study of Steel Manufacturing." Journal of Cleaner Production 113. (2016): 557-564. Print.
Guhathakurta, Subhrajit and Eric Williams. "Impact of Urban Form on Energy Use in Central City and Suburban Neighborhoods: Lessons from the Phoenix Metropolitan Region." Energy Procedia 75. (2015): 2928-2933. Print.
Mutchek, Michele and Eric Williams. "Moving Towards Sustainable and Resilient Smart Water Grids." Challenges 5. (2014): 123-137. Web.
Waller, Michael, et al. "Current and Theoretical Maximum Well-to-wheels Exergy Efficiency of Options to Power Vehicles with Natural Gas." Applied Energy 127. (2014): 55-63. Print.
Sekar, Ashok, Eric Williams, and Mikhail Chester. "Siting is a Constraint to Realize Environmental Benefits from Carbon Capture and Storage." Environmental Science and Technology 48. 19 (2014): 11705-11712. Print.
Williams, Eric, et al. "Linking Informal and Formal Electronics Recycling via an Interface Organization." Challenges 42. (2013): 136-153. Web.
Koomey, Jonathon, H. Scott Matthews, and Eric Williams. "Smart Everything: Will Intelligent Systems Reduce Resource Use?" Annual Reviews of Environment and Resources 38. (2013): 311-43. Print.
Herron, Seth and Eric Williams. "Modelling Cascading Diffusion of New Energy Technologies: Case Study of Residential Solid Oxide Fuel Cells in the U.S. and Internationally." Environmental Science and Technology 47. 15 (2013): 8097-8104. Print.
Zhai, Pei and Eric Williams. "Analyzing Consumer Acceptance of Photovoltaics (PV) Using Fuzzy Logic Model." Renewable Energy 41. (2012): 350-357. Print.
Frijia, Stephane, Subhrajit Guhathakurta, and Eric Williams. "Functional Unit, Technological Dynamics and Scaling Properties for the Life Cycle Energy of Residences." Environmental Science and Technology 46. 3 (2012): 1782-1788. Print.
Kahhat, Ramzy and Eric Williams. "Materials Flow Analysis of E-waste: Domestic Flows and Exports of Used Computers from the United States." Resources, Conservation and Recycling 67. (2012): 67-74. Print.
Williams, Eric. "Environmental Effects of Information and Communication Technologies." Nature 479. (2011): 354-358. Print.
Williams, Eric and Liqiu Deng. "Functionality Versus "Typical Product" Measures of Energy Efficiency: Case Study of Semiconductor Manufacturing." Journal of Industrial Ecology 15. 1 (2011): 108-121. Print.
Babbitt, Callie, Eric Williams, and Ramzy Kahhat. "Institutional Disposition and Management of End-of-Life Electronics: Case Study of U.S. Universities." Environmental Science & Technology 45. (2011): 5366-5372. Print.
Deng, Liqiu, Callie Babbitt, and Eric Williams. "Economic-Balance Hybrid LCA Extended with Uncertainty Analysis: Case Study of Laptop Computer." Journal of Cleaner Production 19. 11 (2011): 1198-1206. Print.
Invited Article/Publication
Williams, Eric and Eric Hittinger. "Wind and Solar Profits: The Race Between Falling Costs and Declining Revenue." Green Tech Media. (2020). Web.
Hull, Clyde and Eric Williams. "The First Step in Managing Plastic Waste is Measuring it – Here’s how we did it for one Caribbean Country." TheConversation. (2020). Web.
Williams, Eric, Eric Hittinger, and Ashok Sekar. "Not all Consumers are Equal – In Terms of What they Save by Using Efficient Appliances." TheConversation. (2018). Web.
Das, Saptarshi, Eric Williams, and Gabrielle Gaustad. "Could Coal Ash be a Viable Source of Rare-earth Metals?" TheConversation. (2018). Web.
Hittinger, Eric and Eric Williams. "How Energy Storage is Starting to Rewire the Electricity Industry." TheConversation. (2018). Web.
Goteti, Srujana, Eric Hittinger, and Eric Williams. "Does Energy Storage Make the Electric Grid Cleaner?" TheConversation. (2018). Web.
Sekar, Ashok and Eric Williams. "Americans are Saving Energy by Staying at Home." TheConversation. (2018). Web.
Williams, Eric. "Autonomous Vehicles Could Help Millions of People Catch up on Sleep, TV and Work." TheConversation. (2018). Web.
Williams, Eric and Eric Hittinger. "If We Keep Subsidizing Wind, Will the Cost of Wind Energy Go Down?" TheConversation. (2017). Web.
Williams, Eric. "How to Tackle the Challenges Posed by E-waste?" Al-Jazeera Online. (2017). Web.
Williams, Eric. "Overcooling and overheating buildings emits as much carbon as four million cars." TheConversation. (2016). Web.
Williams, Eric. "TV-watching couch potatoes have outsized energy footprint." TheConversation. (2016). Web.
Invited Keynote/Presentation
Williams, Eric. "Circular Economy of Electronics." International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE) Conference Americas 2020 Conference. PUCP. Lima, Peru. 7 Jun. 2020. Keynote Speech.
Williams, Eric. "How do we Decide What we Know? Epistemology Challenges in Sustainability Modeling." Engineering Sustainability 2019. University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, PA. 8 Apr. 2019. Keynote Speech.
Williams, Eric. "Recovering Rare Earth Metals from Waste." New York State Innovation Summit. NYSTAR. Rochester, New York. 27 Oct. 2019. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Information Technology, Lifestyles and Energy Consumption." Energy Conservation: Changing Controls to Improve the Bottom Line. Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable. Buffalo, New York. 24 Jan. 2019. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Consumer Electronics and Energy Demand." IEA Digitalization and Energy Demand Workshop. International Energy Agency. Paris, France. 17 Apr. 2017. Keynote Speech.
Williams, Eric. "A Subjective Perspective on LCA of Emerging Technologies." LCA of Emerging Technologies Workshop. University of Calgary. Calgary, Canada. 20 Jul. 2017. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Cross Border Reuse and Recycling of Electronics." 2nd Workshop of the Remanufacturing Working Group. Life Cycle Engineering Expert Committee. Tokyo, Japan. 28 Jul. 2017. Keynote Speech.
Williams, Eric. "Informing Solar Subsidy Policies with an International Model to Predict Residential Adoption." Seminar series. Tokyo Institute of Technology. Tokyo, Japan. 2 Aug. 2017. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Progress and Diffusion of New Energy Technologies." Science and Technology Seminars. University of Rochester. Rochester, NY. 22 Sep. 2017. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Behavior and Energy Use." PUCP Seminar. Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Lima, Peru. 22 Nov. 2017. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Assessing Challenges and Policy Perspectives for International Electronic Waste." The 11th International Conference on Waste Management and Technology. Basel Convention Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific. Beijing, China. 22 Oct. 2016. Keynote Speech.
Williams, Eric. "Characterizing and Managing Energy Consumption Using Time-use." Praxair Seminar Series. University of Buffalo. Buffalo, NY. 22 Sep. 2016. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Technology Diffusion — Purchase and Usage Patterns." School of Environment and Society Seminar Series. Tokyo Institute of Technology. Tokyo, Japan. 4 Jul. 2016. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Sustainable Consumption — Understanding heterogeneity and lifestyle changes using time-use data." IGES Seminar Series. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Hayama, Japan. 5 Jul. 2016. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Resolving variability in learning rates for wind power." International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology. Arizona State Univeresity. Phoenix, AZ. 18 Apr. 2016. Conference Presentation.
Williams, Eric. "Can new energy technologies beat cheap oil?" Energy Policy Reseach Conference. Energy Policy Institute. Santa Fe, NM. 2 Sep. 2016. Lecture.
Sekar, Ashok, Eric Williams, and Roger Chen. "Personalizing utility efficiency programs: case study of televisions." Advanced Energy Conference. Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center. New York, NY. 21 Apr. 2016. Conference Presentation.
Goteti, Srujana, Eric Hittinger, and Eric Williams. "CARBON IMPLICATIONS OF ENERGY STORAGE WITH INCREMENTAL PENETRATION OF WIND ENERGY INTO GRID MIX." USAEE North American Conference. United States Association for Energy Economics. Tulsa, OK. 24 Oct. 2016. Conference Presentation.
Williams, Eric. "Sun-to-Wheel Process Chains: Current and Theoretical Maximum Efficiencies." School of Forestry and Environment Seminar. Yale University. New Haven, CT. 19 Mar. 2015. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Technological Progress and Energy Policy: Case Studies of Wind, Batteries and Electric Vehicles." Dept of Physics Seminar Series. University of Maryland - Delaware. Delaware, MD. 17 Jun. 2015. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Technological Progress and Energy Policy: Case Studies of Wind, Batteries and Electric Vehicles." Dept of Physics Seminar Series. University of Maryland - Delaware. Delaware, MD. 17 Jun. 2015. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Using Thermodynamic Limits of Energy Process Chains to Bound Technological Progress." Green Design Initiative Seminar Series. Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA. 29 Oct. 2015. Lecture.
Williams, Eric. "Cascading Discussion and Energy Technology Subsidies: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles in the United States." College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering Seminar Series. SUNY Polytechnic. Albany, NY. 4 Dec. 2015. Lecture.
Book Chapter
Junginger, Martin, et al. "Onshore wind energy." Technological Learning in the Transition to a Low-Carbon Energy System. Ed. Martin Junginger and Atse Louwen. Amsterdam, Holland: Academic Press, 2019. 87-102. Print.
Williams, Eric. "Future Perspectives on Electronic Scrap." E-waste Management: From Waste to Resource. Ed. Ramzy Kahhat, Klaus Hieronymi, and Eric Williams. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. 251-260. Print.
Williams, Eric. "Ultra-Purity, Thermodynamics and Energy Use: Case Study of Semiconductor Manufacturing." Thermodynamics and the Destruction of Resource. Ed. Bhavik Bakshi, Tim Gutowski, and Dusan Sekulic. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 190-211. Print.
External Scholarly Fellowships/National Review Committee
8/1/2018 - 9/31/2019
     Ford Motor Company
     Amount: $20000
1/1/2019 - 12/31/2021
     National Science Foundation
     Amount: $298,713
7/1/2018 - 6/30/2021
     National Science Foundation
     Amount: $295,105
10/1/2017 - 12/31/2018
     Ford Motor Company
     Amount: $18,000
3/1/2016 - 4/4/2017
     Ellen Macarthur Foundation
     Amount: $3000
7/1/2016 - 6/30/2019
     National Science Foundation
     Amount: $297,789.00
3/1/2016 - 8/31/2017
     U.S. Department of Energy
     Amount: $149,793
7/1/2016 - 7/31/2016
     Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science
     Amount: $7000
Journal Editor
Williams, Eric, ed. Journal of Industrial Ecology. New Haven, CT: Wiley, 1997. Print.
Full Length Book
Kahhat, Ramzy, Klaus Hieronymi, and Eric Willilams. E-waste Management: From Waste to Resource. 1st ed. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Published Conference Proceedings
Williams, Eric, Ramzy Kahhat, and Shijnji Kaneko. "Bounding Scenario Analysis: A Case Study of Future Energy Demand of China's Steel Sector." Proceedings of the 2012 IEEE International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology. Ed. Thomas Seager. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, 2012. Print.
Williams, Eric, et al. "Bill of Attributes, Life Cycle Assessment and Materials Flows: Case Study of Laptop Computers." Proceedings of the Electronics Goes Green+ 2012. Ed. Nils Nillsen. Berlin, Germany: n.p., 2012. Web.

Currently Teaching

1 - 3 Credits
An independent project in sustainability not covered in the available courses. This project can be experimental research, literature review, or other appropriate work. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor.
3 Credits
Energy will play an increasingly vital role in economic, environmental and political developments around the world. This course first investigates the current trends in energy production, distribution, and consumption associated with the primary incumbent energy system technologies: fossil fuel combustion and nuclear power. An understanding of the economic, environmental and social limitations of these technologies will lead to analysis of the potential benefits of 3 key renewable technologies: solar (including wind), biomass and hydrogen/fuel cells. Potential paths to market penetration for these technologies will be introduced, including geographical variations expected to occur globally and within the United States.
1 - 6 Credits
An independent project in sustainability serving as a capstone experience for students completing the non-thesis option. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor.
1 - 6 Credits
Independent research in sustainability leading to the completion of the MS thesis. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor.
0 Credits
MS or PhD students requiring additional time to complete their thesis
3 Credits
This course examines risk identification, quantification, and management from the standpoint of the three key components of sustainability science (economics, environment, and society). Economic subjects include cost-benefit analysis, value of information, time value of money, basic decision analysis, value functions, monetizing challenges for ecosystem services, and sustainability risk management. Environmental subjects include toxicological perspectives such as fate and transport and dose-response relationships including an overview of EPA's current practice. Policy and societal subjects include utility theory and lotteries, risk perception, ethical issues in risk quantification, and impact statements.
1 - 9 Credits
Research in fulfillment of Sustainability Ph.D. dissertation or M.S. capstone requirements.
0 Credits
The Research Internship is designed to enhance the educational experience of PhD students through full-time employment.
1 - 9 Credits
Research fulfillment of Sustainability Ph.D. dissertation requirements.

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