University of South Carolina

To examine community and worker opportunities for just energy transitions in South Carolina and Tennessee

  • Amount $499,438
  • City Columbia, SC
  • Investigator Shelley Welton
  • Year 2021
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Energy and Environment

As the U.S. transitions towards less carbon intensive means of producing energy, important questions arise about how this transition will likely impact different communities across the country.  For instance, how do rural, urban, and suburban areas differ in their ability to adapt to economic and socio-cultural changes driven by clean energy innovation? How might various energy and environmental policies hinder or accelerate workers moving into clean energy sector jobs? How might energy transitions differ across geographies, especially in the South, where little research has been done on these questions to date? Funds from this grant support a team of interdisciplinary scholars led by Shelley Welton at the University of South Carolina and collaborators at the University of Tennessee who aim to advance our understanding of how the transition to clean energy technologies are affecting vulnerable and marginalized populations in the American South. Focusing on urban, suburban, and rural areas in Columbia, SC and Knoxville, TN, the team will conduct 80 interviews and 6 focus groups to better understand community energy vulnerability, worker experiences in the clean energy transition, and overall community priorities across a diverse range of neighborhood types.  Interviewees and focus group participants will be identified and selected with the cooperation and input from local community organizations, including representatives from environmental institutions, worker collectives, and local faith communities.  The scholars anticipate that these interviews will lead to the identification of both unique findings about the concerns of particularly vulnerable communities, as well as common themes across communities, that can inform and strengthen future energy policymaking at the local, state, and national level.  In addition to peer-reviewed articles reporting on both findings from specific locations and themes that cut across research sites, the team will produce community-oriented materials, such as “A People’s Guide to Energy Policy,” envisioned as a white paper and accompanying website that shares findings and information with local community organizations, as well as an interactive “As Goes the South StoryMap” that will serve as a digital narrative for the project and include interviews, images, and videos.

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