By Tarun Reddy Arasu
Energy efficiency programs that focus on equity acknowledge and address past injustices by involving marginalized communities in decision-making and proactively ensuring that all residents have equal access to benefits. Evaluating, measuring, and verifying (“EM&V”) programs collect and analyze data to evaluate program success. By engaging community stakeholders and incorporating data into the EM&V process, policymakers and implementers can identify inequities in current programs, establish accountability for addressing issues in program design, and ensure that progress toward equity is measurable.
Recently, the Energy Equity Project aimed to establish a comprehensive system for assessing and promoting fairness in clean energy initiatives and investments. The project team, which included 45 experts from various fields, largely women and people of color, identified 148 possible energy equity metrics which were evaluated based on four key dimensions of equity: Recognition, Procedural, Distributive, and Restorative. The Energy Equity Project Report[i] prepared by the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan provides a comprehensive discussion of these issues.
The problem of energy inequity is multifaceted, with disparities in access to clean energy resources and their benefits persisting across marginalized communities. Metrics play an essential role in identifying and addressing these inequities. Forming an energy equity index that incorporates all dimensions of equity can serve as a valuable tool for policymakers and implementers.
Achieving energy equity requires a comprehensive set of solutions that encompass changes in program design, implementation, and evaluation. These solutions must also incorporate community engagement and stakeholder involvement to ensure marginalized communities have a voice in decision-making processes. By adopting a holistic approach encompassing metrics and community engagement, we can work toward a future where access to clean energy is equitable and everyone has a fair chance to benefit from sustainable energy solutions.
Tarun Reddy Arasu is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University.
[i] Energy Equity Project, 2022. “Energy Equity Framework: Combining data and qualitative approaches to ensure equity in the energy transition.” University of Michigan – School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS).