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Renewable Energy Siting Conflicts and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS) Database


Term:

Fall

Department:

11: Urban Studies and Planning

Faculty Supervisor:

Larry Susskind

Faculty email:

susskind@mit.edu

Apply by:

9/11/2020

Contact:

Jungwoo Chun: jwchun@mit.edu

Project Description

Not that long ago, the conventional wisdom was that once renewable energy (RE) became cost effective (and less expensive than fossil fuels), it would be relatively easy to implement ambitious RE policy goals. Now it turns out that even with the availability of less expensive and less environmentally damaging wind, solar, geothermal and hydro options, the chances of meeting even the relatively modest targets set out by the states seem very small. In addition to industry-backed opposition at the state legislative level, local siting difficulties have made it difficult to implement renewable energy projects of all kinds. The aim of this project is to build an open-source database that presents detailed analyses of RE siting conflicts across the United States, including detailed project descriptions, the role specific projects could play in meeting state RPS mandates, sources of political and social conflict, key proponents/opponents, and the most up-to-date information on where things stand. So far (since June 2020), we have identified 27 RE projects that have been blocked over the past two or three years. We have developed a common template for writing up summaries of each conflict. We have also started preparing preliminary estimates of the likely impacts (in terms of net annual energy generation per MWh) if these projects are abandoned. We are in the process of formulating a number of provisional hypotheses regarding the reasons these projects were blocked or face strong opposition. These hypotheses will provide the initial direction for the report we hope to prepare by the end of the summer. In the fall, we hope to expand our case data base and test our working hypotheses quantitatively.

Pre-requisites

We are seeking one or two undergraduate students to (1) help build and manage the database and (2) explore other ways to gather additional data to improve our database. The students are expected to devote at least 8 hours per week for 14 weeks during the Fall term. Anyone interested and concerned about renewable energy production and transmission are welcome to apply. We strongly encourage students who can connect this project with their personal academic and professional aspirations to apply. First-years are also welcome.