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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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2015-12

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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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2022-05