Three Questions on Energy Justice with Yiran He

ESI’s newest member is Yiran He, a research assistant who studies equity issues in economic development and energy transitions. Yiran joins ESI from the MIT Technology and Policy Program, where she is a first-year masters student with an undergraduate degree in Materials Science and Engineering and Science, Technology and Society. She previously worked on the MIT-Harvard Roosevelt Project in the area of the clean energy transition and regional economic and community development. Here, she will expand our research on various equity issues facing policymakers in planning for a just economic and energy transition.

To introduce Yiran, we asked her three questions about energy justice and transitions.

How does a focus on energy justice play a part on the path to a low-carbon economy?

Due to global economic and social forces, the world is already moving toward lower carbon emissions in many sectors. With a market shift toward cleaner sources of energy, and cleaner forms of manufacturing, it is essential that communities deeply engaged in changing industries are not left behind, or left out of conversations.

What has your research on energy transitions in different parts of the U.S. taught you about tailoring energy policies to the needs of specific areas?

First of all, tailoring policies to specific areas is necessary. Every region has a different history and different existing assets, which can include longstanding ties to, and deep expertise in, specific industries. Furthermore, finding the right combination of policies for specific areas requires collaboration with and commitment from partners with close regional ties and vested interest in the region’s future.

What kinds of regional partners does ESI need to engage with to make the most productive strides toward a just transition?

Transitions are about more than energy sources, and a smooth and just transition must include a diverse array of voices. Industrial, non-profit, academic, community development, and governmental actors, focused on a spread of topics including energy, workforce issues, education and training, and economic development, will all be part of a conversation in planning the pathway toward a low-carbon economy.