Matching Items (4)

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Understanding the Social Value of Solar Energy Production in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area

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With an abundance of sunshine, the state of Arizona has the potential for producing large amounts of solar energy. However, in recent years Arizona has also become the focal point in a political battle to determine the value and future

With an abundance of sunshine, the state of Arizona has the potential for producing large amounts of solar energy. However, in recent years Arizona has also become the focal point in a political battle to determine the value and future of residential solar energy fees, which has critical implications for distributed generation. As the debate grows, it is clear that solar policies developed in Arizona will influence other state regulators regarding their solar rate structures and Net Energy Metering; however, there is a hindrance in the progress of this discussion due to the varying frameworks of the stakeholders involved. For this project, I set out to understand and analyze why the different stakeholders have such conflicting viewpoints. Some groups interpret energy as a financial and technological object while others view it is an inherently social and political issue. I conducted research in three manners: 1) I attended public meetings, 2) hosted interviews, and 3) analyzed reports and studies on the value of solar. By using the SRP 2015 Rate Case as my central study, I will discuss how these opposing viewpoints do or do not incorporate various forms of justice such as distributive, participatory, and recognition justice. In regards to the SRP Rate Case, I will look at both the utility- consumer relationship and the public meeting processes in which they interact, in addition to the pricing plans. This work reveals that antiquated utility structures and a lack of participation and recognition justice are hindering the creation of policy changes that satisfy both the needs of the utilities and the community at large.

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Date Created
2015-12

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Justice in Transition: A Case of Decentralized Renewables from India

Description

As India expanded its grid infrastructure, decentralized renewable energy technologies, such as off-grid solar, also emerged in parallel as an electrification solution. This dissertation critically examines the role of off-grid solar in facilitating rural electrification efforts in India. Specifically, it

As India expanded its grid infrastructure, decentralized renewable energy technologies, such as off-grid solar, also emerged in parallel as an electrification solution. This dissertation critically examines the role of off-grid solar in facilitating rural electrification efforts in India. Specifically, it applies the frameworks of the multi-level perspective, capabilities approach, and energy justice to achieve three objectives: (1) trace the evolution of off-grid solar in India; (2) understand the role of solar micro-grids in improving household capabilities and well-being; (1) examine whether and how community-scale solar micro-grids can operate as just means of electrification. This research relies on qualitative case-study methods. The historical research in Paper 1 is based on published policy documents and interviews with energy experts in India. It finds that landscape-regime-niche actor relations and politics were crucial in shaping off-grid solar transition outcomes. There is also a narrative component, as the key narratives of energy security, environmental degradation, climate change and energy for development converged to create spaces for state and non-state interactions that could nurture the development of off-grid solar. The community-level research in Papers 2 and 3 analyze a local energy initiative of community operated solar micro-grid using semi-structured interviews and participant observations from three villages in Maharashtra. Solar micro-grids play an important part in expanding people’s choices and opportunities. The benefits are not uniform across all people, however. Increases in energy-related capabilities vary by economic class and gender, and to some extent this means certain biases can get reinforced. In addition, the inability of solar micro-grids to keep up with the changing electrification landscape and daily practices means that the challenges of affordability, reliability and community engagement emerged as important concerns over-time. Empirically, this dissertation finds that off-grid energy initiatives must be carefully designed to be in alignment with local values and realities. Theoretically, it adds to debates on justice in energy transitions by showcasing the regime-led innovations, and temporality elements of energy justice local energy initiatives.

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Date Created
2021

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Imagining Solar Communities: The Governance and Visuality of Urban Photovoltaics

Description

Concerns about the environmental and social impacts of anthropogenic climate change have called into question the efficacy, efficiency, and equity of energy systems. People committed to renewable energy transitions, and those who defend fossil-based systems, are simultaneously envisioning energy futures

Concerns about the environmental and social impacts of anthropogenic climate change have called into question the efficacy, efficiency, and equity of energy systems. People committed to renewable energy transitions, and those who defend fossil-based systems, are simultaneously envisioning energy futures and seeking to build them. In the process, they are changing both energy technologies and how social life is organized around them. In this dissertation, I examine how ideas and materialities around distributed solar power become inscribed into energy policies, etched into urban landscapes, and embedded into city life. These processes engender particular kinds of embodied communities, which I define as solar communities. I study the visual and affective dimensions of emerging solar communities in Arizona and Italy using the qualitative methods of semi-structured interviews, photo-documentation, and observation. The dissertation consists of three papers. In Chapter 2, I explore how rooftops are constructed as newly productive sites for electricity generation through economic, legal, cartographic, and political negotiations, and how they become sites of struggle over who has access to them. I describe a case study in Phoenix about a proposed change in compensation for residential rooftop solar customers and the affective dynamics of a protest around it. In Chapter 3, I examine how a variety of photovoltaic applications are appearing in urban landscapes in Treviso, Italy and Flagstaff, Arizona. I investigate how aesthetic and environmental values are imbued in the physical forms those installations ultimately take, and the role that in/visibility plays in shaping these decisions. I use photography to document these emergent solar communities and argue that there is value to seeing photovoltaics in your city. In Chapter 4, I describe a workshop I led on the human dimensions and ethical trade-offs of renewable energy transitions using interactive activities and case studies from Ethiopia and Appalachia. I show how decisions about energy transitions have far-reaching impacts on people’s lives, health, the way they work, and geopolitical relationships. Together, these chapters begin to form a picture of the governance around, and visuality of, photovoltaic designs that emerge as fixtures of both landscape and society, which in turn inform solar communities.

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Date Created
2022

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Viewing Tellurium Production and Usage in Solar Panels Through an Energy Justice Lens

Description

Climate change has necessitated the transition from non-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas to renewable, low-carbon energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric. These energy sources, although much better equipped to reduce carbon-induced climate change,

Climate change has necessitated the transition from non-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas to renewable, low-carbon energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric. These energy sources, although much better equipped to reduce carbon-induced climate change, require materials that pollute the environment when mined and can release toxic waste during processing and disposal. Critical minerals are used in low-carbon renewable energy, and they are subject to both the environmental issues that accompany regular mineral extraction as well as issues related to scarcity from geopolitical issues, trade policy, and geological rarity. Tellurium is a critical mineral produced primarily as a byproduct of copper and used in cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar panels. As these solar panels become more common, the problems that arise with many critical minerals’ usage (pollution, unfair distribution, human health complications) become more apparent. Looking at these issues through an energy justice framework can help to ensure availability, sustainability, inter/intragenerational equity, and accountability, and this framework can provide a more nuanced understanding of the costs and the benefits that will accrue with the transition to low-carbon, renewable energy. Energy justice issues surrounding the extraction of critical minerals will become increasingly prevalent as more countries pledge to have a zero-carbon future.

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Date Created
2022-05