SUBJECT: Ph.D. Proposal Presentation
BY: Bettina Arkhurst
TIME: Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 3:00 p.m.
PLACE:, Virtual
TITLE: Integration of Energy Justice into Renewable Energy Technology Design
COMMITTEE: Dr. Katherine Fu, Chair (ME)
Dr. Devesh Ranjan (ME)
Dr. Marta Hatzell (ME)
Dr. Christopher Saldana (ME)
Dr. Ellen Morris (NREL)


Climate change has led to an urgent need for engineers to research, create, and deploy sustainable, low-carbon technologies. Although climate change will impact all people regardless of socioeconomic status or other identifiers, those belonging to socially vulnerable populations disproportionately bear the negative consequences of both climate change and fossil fuel use while simultaneously being deprived of many benefits associated with renewable energy technologies. To account for such injustices, there now exists an emphasis on a just transition to a clean energy economy from fossil fuels. A just transition seeks to avoid recreating past and present inequities as we transition to greater renewable energy use. Currently, work centered on energy justice is lacking in engineering research and literature. Thus, renewable energy engineers lack the tools needed to apply concepts of energy justice to their work, which limits the impact of their work and engenders a reliance on the same principles that created the unjust practices and outcomes we find today.

This proposed study seeks to understand how concepts of energy justice can be applied in the renewable energy technology design process by answering two research questions: (i) How can a framework that allows engineers to consider energy justice principles in their renewable or clean energy design process be developed? (ii) How can a framework that allows engineers to consider energy justice principles in their renewable or clean energy design process be implemented? The proposed research will be based on Design Research Methodology, which consists of a research clarification stage, an initial descriptive study, a prescriptive study, and a second descriptive study. A literature review, a survey, and semi-structured interviews were used to create an initial description of the existing situation during the research clarification and initial descriptive study stages. This description will be a guide for pinpointing desired attributes for an intervention. The prescriptive study will be used to create the intervention to improve upon current practices, and the second descriptive study will be used to evaluate the intervention. This work strives to provide engineers in the energy sector with a set of tools to better ensure their work can positively impact a larger segment of the population by enabling them to create more just processes, systems, and technologies for socially vulnerable communities.