JUST-R Metrics for Considering Energy Justice in Early-Stage Energy Research

Nikita Dutta, Elizabeth Gill, Bettina Arkhurst, Mary Hallisey, Katherine Fu, Kate Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Achieving sustainable decarbonization of the energy sector requires implementing and improving energy technologies while simultaneously managing sources of social inequity in the energy system. Centering energy justice, which has "the goal of achieving equity in both the social and economic participation in the energy system, while also remediating social, economic, and health burdens on those historically harmed by the energy system," in the transition to clean energy has become an increasingly urgent priority for social scientists, policymakers, and community activists alike. However, late-stage consideration of social impacts of energy technologies may result in identifying inequities only after substantial time, money, and effort have been expended on research and development (R&D). This issue is exemplified by concerns over environmental and human health impacts related to cobalt in lithium-ion batteries, which has spurred research into alternatives only after decades of R&D and the establishment of supply chains, infrastructure, and markets for cobalt-containing chemistries. Other examples include issues with land use and resource consumption related to first-generation biofuel feedstocks as well as occupational hazards and pollution associated with photovoltaics manufacturing. In all these cases, subsequent R&D to improve technologies or processes cannot undo the effects already experienced. Incorporating energy justice from the earliest stage of R&D will enable more just technology implementation, but integrating justice considerations into early-stage research is a challenge due to a lack of tools to assess and manage them. To fill this gap, we center early-stage research to develop the Justice Underpinning Science and Technology Research (JUST-R) metrics framework - energy justice metrics specifically targeted at early-stage researchers to assess their work on an immediate timescale. By applying these metrics to a case study focused on materials for next-generation photovoltaics, we highlight potential benefits and barriers to implementing this framework in early-stage research and discuss necessary institutional and individual actions needed for researchers to effectively leverage the tool to incorporate justice-focused criteria into R&D decision making.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)431-437
Number of pages7
JournalJoule
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-83443

Keywords

  • decarbonization
  • energy justice
  • energy system
  • social inequity

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