UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — The shift to renewable energy is expected to increase as the world transitions to a low-carbon energy system. The expansion of wind, solar, hydropower, biofuels and other low-carbon technologies has not accelerated at the pace needed to respond to the climate crisis and there is often a lack equity and opportunity for communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.
To help address these issues, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant over three years to researchers from Penn State, the University of Minnesota, the University of Richmond, the University of Kansas State and Barry University in Florida.
The team will work with communities to design a framework for creating policies that mitigate the impacts of climate change for a fairer transition to renewable energy, while expanding renewable energy generation in the most vulnerable communities with considerations of environmental justice.
“Penn State is working to facilitate a just and equitable energy transition that effectively navigates the trade-offs between environmental impact and economic prosperity,” said Lee Kump, John Leone Dean at Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. . “Interdisciplinary projects like this are essential to achieving these goals, and we are grateful to the Sloan Foundation for their support and partnership in this effort.”
Members of the Penn State research team are Jennifer Baka, associate professor of geography, and Hannah Wiseman, law professor and Wilson Faculty Fellow at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
“I am excited to be working on this project to help communities transition to a clean energy future, especially regions with a history of fossil fuel extraction,” Baka said. “Funding from the Sloan Foundation will allow us to develop much-needed policy tools to help communities navigate these transitions.”
The project, titled “Just Energy Transitions and Place,” will examine how place considerations should be incorporated into federal or state energy transition initiatives. Understanding unique local considerations such as extreme weather events, environmental and health impacts of the energy sector, political dynamics, tribal land dispossession, land loss, and historical inequalities will guide the research team in the developing a framework based on a broad set of factors.
“Developing effective policy tools to support transition-affected workers and communities requires a better understanding of local differences,” Wiseman said. “This research will help the research community and policy makers better understand and resolve these differences.”
The researchers will conduct interviews and focus groups in Kansas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Project funds will also be used to train and support graduate students from several institutions in law, public policy, urban planning and geography.
The research will help build on the growing body of literature on energy transition policy by identifying opportunities for state-to-state learning in policy design and areas where local context needs to be considered for effective policymaking. and responsive, according to the researchers. Engaging communities through interviews and focus groups will help ensure that research is linked to the lived experience of communities facing energy transitions.
“This project will make critical contributions to our understanding of how different communities across the country are experiencing energy transitions. It will cover a wide range of geographies, and this multidisciplinary team brings a wide range of expertise in conducting locally oriented research,” said Evan Michelson, program director at the Sloan Foundation.
Founded in 1934 by industrialist Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the foundation is a nonprofit granting institution that supports high quality, unbiased scientific research. fosters a strong and diverse scientific workforce; builds public understanding and engagement with science; and promotes the health of institutions of scientific endeavor.
The goal of the Sloan Foundation’s Energy and Environment Program is to inform societal transition to low-carbon energy systems in the United States by studying economic, environmental, technological, and distribution issues.