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A Research Roadmap for Promoting Equity in the Clean Energy Transition

Posted to Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the Utility Management Group
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Brenda Brickhouse's picture
Technical Executive ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE (EPRI)
  • Member since 2022
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  • Jun 16, 2022
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The clean energy transition presents opportunities to advance historically marginalized communities and those facing inequity. These communities, which have borne many of the costs and received few of the benefits of our current systems, can potentially benefit if policy, technology, and infrastructure are developed with equity and environmental justice in mind.  Public and private sector decision-making, along with identifying opportunities and new tools and technologies, may enable a more just and inclusive path forward. 


But where do we start? 


The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently developed an Equitable Decarbonization Research Roadmap, providing a guide for research gaps and questions to inform projects by EPRI and key energy stakeholders. The roadmap was developed over the past year as a result of six technical workshops through our Equitable Decarbonization Initiative. These workshops convened approximately 370 participants from academia, government, utilities, and non-government organizations to discuss equity issues related to the clean energy transition. In these workshops, we explored different facets of the transition, including modeling and policy, power generation, electrification, energy efficiency, the digital divide, and metrics and tools. These collaborative sessions provided a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives critical for defining research agendas and actionable goals that meet decarbonization targets and address reliability, affordability, and systemic injustice. 


Prioritizing Common Themes and Research Gaps
These workshops brought to light common themes and research gaps across various segments of the energy sector. We recognize that local community engagement and collaboration are important to creating and delivering an equitable and just clean energy transition. We also recognize methodology design and community involvement should be integrated directly into the research process. Key research areas on the following topics emerged from the workshops: 

  • Data, Metrics, and Modeling

Both quantitative and qualitative data are needed for equity research because the extent to which equity and inequity can be adequately represented in quantitative data alone is unclear. There are many aspects of energy and climate justice issues that are not easily quantifiable yet are critical to research. Measurement to quantify impacts could incorporate non-cost elements and social costs, as well as economic costs, and include quantitative and qualitative metrics. 


When it comes to modeling, participants in the road mapping process emphasized the need for researchers to move past the “compliance at lowest cost” logic for regulatory and modeling design. Instead, researchers should aim to account for present and future social costs, equity, and inequity. 

  • Workers and Communities

This area focused on opportunities and gaps related to the impact of the transition and on planning, program, and policy design needed to ensure a just and inclusive process. This includes uncertainties about how the energy transition will impact employees of oil, coal, and natural gas industries—and how to build opportunities for job transition, including training needs, as well as community and economic development. 


Opportunities for community-oriented research that explore socioeconomic impacts of electrification, particularly the relationship between electrification and gentrification, should be considered. There may be additional need for investigations into how and which communities and demographics adopt new, energy efficient electric technologies, along with potential barriers preventing other groups from making changes. 

  • Customer and Cost Distribution

The roadmapping process revealed questions surrounding how utilities and energy stakeholders can incorporate the needs of energy consumers and improve engagement and decision-making. Research may explore how to integrate equity into rate, revenue, and market design, as well as equity implications of decoupling revenue from sales. 

  • Policy and Regulation

Policy and regulation play a key role in aiding an equitable transition and intersect with many of the other areas and key themes discussed in the equitable decarbonization workshops. One knowledge gap includes the relationship between electrification and energy efficiency policies and housing justice issues. More research is needed to determine how these programs can impact equity and justice.

The equitable decarbonization workshops identified many areas with research needs and opportunities to illuminate issues and inform decision-making. At EPRI, we are taking the next steps to elevate equity research by further incorporating it into our research portfolio in nuclear, generation, transmission, distribution, and customer programs. Learn more by reading the full Equitable Decarbonization Research Roadmap here and EPRI’s Equitable Decarbonization Initiative on EPRI.com.
 
 

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
As an independent, nonprofit organization, we focus on electricity generation, delivery, and use to make electric power safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible.
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Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 20, 2022

How does doubling and tripling the cost of electricity help the poor, including minorities? That is exactly what is occurring in California, the leading purveyor of the “energy transition”. The only transition is to further line of the pockets of the investment class (and the politicians getting re-election money from the green energy mafia).

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Jun 23, 2022

"Both quantitative and qualitative data are needed for equity research because the extent to which equity and inequity can be adequately represented in quantitative data alone is unclear."

 

I agree, both are needed. In the past couple years, I've seen far too many instances of proposed equity solutions completely devoid of any data to back up their efficacy. 

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