Northeastern University

To investigate the role of crises and disruption in shaping just energy transitions by examining three case studies in Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Massachusetts

  • Amount $499,967
  • City Boston, MA
  • Investigator Laura Kuhl
  • Year 2022
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Energy and Environment

Energy disruptions caused by severe weather events like hurricanes, floods, or tornados can be catalysts for clean energy transitions, as damaged fossil fuel generation plants can be replaced with cleaner alternatives, or rebuilt homes or energy infrastructure can be rebuilt with more modern, efficient technologies. Effective community engagement is crucial in such situations, as policy decisions made in the wake of disaster can have lock-in effects for years to come. This grant will fund a team led by Laura Kuhl of Northwestern University that aims to advance our understanding of the role energy system crises play in shaping just energy transitions through examining case studies in three distinct regions: comparing community experiences with extreme energy system disruption and recovery in Puerto Rico with historically marginalized urban communities in Massachusetts and rural communities in West Virginia. In each case study, Kuhl and the team will work with local community organizations to conduct focus groups that employ photovoice approaches in which participating individuals use photographs and images they capture as a way to share their experiences with energy system disruptions and crises. The team will also conduct semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders in each area to discuss barriers to just energy transitions, how decisions on energy investment are made, and how such crises and disruptions might open new policy opportunities. The case studies will aim to paint a picture of the overlap between federal and community energy transition priorities and help to identify the conditions under which disruptions can promote more equitable transformation.

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