Energy & Environment

Photo courtesy of Dennis Schroeder / NREL
info

New smartphone apps can be connected to a home thermostat to monitor energy use. The tradeoffs associated with the development of such technologies is a primary focus of the Energy & Environment program.

Program Goal

To inform the societal transition toward low-carbon energy systems in the United States by investigating economic, environmental, technological, and distributional issues.

The Program

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Energy and Environment program looks to achieve its mission by supporting research, training, networking, and dissemination efforts in this domain that shape the direction of scholarship by investigating under-explored questions that warrant further attention, advance collaborative and interdisciplinary research across the social and natural sciences, involve early career faculty and train the next generation of students, link research with practice, and partner with other funders to amplify programmatic impact. The program’s predominant geographic focus is the United States

Topics

The program looks to support research in the following selected topic areas:

  • Energy Markets and Policy Analysis: This topic reflects the program’s ongoing and longstanding interest in supporting scholarship that examines issues related to how energy markets function, assesses the impact of energy policies implemented at various levels of government, and thinks about the design and functionality of key institutional mechanisms across the energy system. Electricity generation, transmission, and distribution systems are undergoing rapid transformation and warrant further study to understand how they are likely to evolve in the years ahead.
  • Net Zero Innovation and Negative Emissions TechnologiesMany recent analyses have suggested that the development and deployment of net zero innovation and negative emissions technologies need to be scaled-up quickly and dramatically. The Foundation looks to help advance activities that examine the factors that contribute to net zero energy innovation and explore both the opportunities and challenges faced by emerging negative emissions technologies.
  • Transportation and Mobility: The program is interested in supporting projects that look to understand how transportation and mobility systems are changing. Potential activities could explore a range of questions related to the rise of electrification, autonomous, and shared personal transportation vehicles, in additional to studying how heavy-duty transport, commercial shipping, and the movement of freight might be impacted by these and related developments.
  • Energy and Distributional Equity: There is a short supply of research looking to understand how changes in the energy system might have differing impacts on various populations and across different racial, ethnic, or income groups. The program looks to support research that illuminates how changes in the energy system might be better designed to include these populations in a more comprehensive manner.
  • Industrial Decarbonization: The program aims to support studies that examine a range of emerging economic, social, policy, and technological developments that offer more promise going forward and help to understand how this component of the energy transition might be accelerated. Additionally, the program is looking to consider research that examines the promise and challenges faced by various developments that could enhance industrial decarbonization, such as the rise of digital economy or distributed manufacturing.
  • Energy Systems and Climate Adaptation: While the transition toward low-carbon energy systems is needed to address climate change, recent events have showed that climate change is already having a distinct impact on energy systems. The program seeks to support research that can help better quantify the climate change impacts on different components of energy infrastructure or study how energy systems may need to be redesigned to mitigate against potential climate risks in the future.

Strategy

The Energy and Environment program looks to make progress on examining these topics by:

  • Generating Novel Research: The primary focus of this program is to build an impartial economic, environmental, policy, science, and engineering knowledge base related to the societal transition toward low-carbon energy systems as a public good.
  • Training the Next Generation of Scholars and Practitioners: A critical component of this program is training the next generation of scholars and practitioners capable of analyzing and addressing a wide range of challenges and opportunities across the energy system.
  • Building Multidisciplinary Networks: This program aims to foster new collaborations and strengthen existing research networks to enhance the effectiveness of research, training, and knowledge dissemination.
  • Disseminating Information for Decision-making: This program helps grantees widely share impartial research findings to inform the development of policies and practices that can help accelerate the societal transition to low-carbon energy systems.

The program is particularly interested in considering projects that reflect the following core characteristics:

  • Interdisciplinary, Integrative, and Collaborative: The program looks to support collaborative research, training, networking, and dissemination efforts that link scholars from different disciplines and institutions. While the program’s focus is largely rooted in the social sciences, it also looks to advance multidisciplinary collaborations with scholars in basic science and engineering disciplines as well. 
  • Leadership by Early- and Mid-Career Researchers and the Training of Students: The program looks to focus its support for faculty at the Assistant and Associate Professor level and provide resources for training students at doctoral and post-doctoral levels.
  • Linking Research with Practice: The program looks to advance research that facilitates scholars working with stakeholders in government, industry, and non-governmental organizations.
  • Timely, Catalytic, and Gap-Filling: The program looks to provide resources to seed new projects, extend existing research in important new directions, or fill information gaps that are otherwise unaddressed.
  • Facilitating Partnerships with Other Funders: The program looks for opportunities to support projects that can pursue and secure additional funding from other sources.

Apply

Due to the significant funding available from both public and private sources for energy and environmental research, the Sloan Foundation is very selective in the grants it makes in this area. Interested scholars should send a letter of inquiry of no more than two pages to energy@sloan.org.

Please note that the Sloan Foundation does not engage in or support energy policy advocacy of any kind. Funding is only provided for non-partisan, balanced, evidence-based analysis. Additionally, this program predominantly focuses on research that examines energy systems in the United States. Projects focusing exclusively on issues outside of the United States or that are solely related to climate change are generally considered outside the program’s scope.

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