Dr. Williams is a Senior Research Scientist at the Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment at Princeton University. Trained as a theoretical physicist, he shifted his research in 1970 from theoretical physics to energy systems analysis, with the aim of identifying and articulating energy technologies, strategies, and public policies that offer promise in addressing the major environmental, security, and other societal challenges posed by conventional energy. He has been at Princeton University since 1975. He has led Princeton’s Energy Systems Analysis Group and under the University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative (a 20-year project supported by BP), the CMI’s Carbon Capture Group.
Over the years his energy systems analyses have explored most major energy issues. In recent years his research has explored strategies and policies for launching CO2 capture and storage (CCS) technologies in the market. His current major interest is CCS strategies for electric grids with high penetrations of intermittent renewables, including negative emissions options that involve geological storage of photosynthetic (biomass-derived) as well as fossil CO2.
He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and received its Leo Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest (1988) for "applying physics to end-use energy efficiency and educating physicists, members of Congress, and the general public on energy conservation issues." He received the Sadi Carnot Award (1991) from the US Department of Energy for his work on energy efficiency. He received a MacArthur Prize in 1993. The National Audubon Society and American Association of Engineering Societies awarded him the Joan Hodges Queneau Palladium Medal for innovative engineering solutions to environmental problems (1995). He shared the 2000 Volvo Environment Prize with Jose Goldemberg (Brazil), Thomas Johansson (Sweden), and Amulya Reddy (India)—awarded for their book Energy for a Sustainable World. And he shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his contributions to IPCC reports, including the 2005 Special Report on CO2 Capture and Storage.