Session Recap: Sustainability and Energy Transitions
November 7, 2014 06:38 PM
By Kharaam Sharifpour, University of Southern California
In this session four papers were presented, three of which investigated the sustainability and renewable energy in the United States and one was a case study in Germany. Heike I. Brugger, a Ph.D. student at the University of Konstanz, presented the paper The Implementation of the German ‘Energiewende' at the Local Level: Identifying Discourse Structures and Game Patterns of Local Energy Policies. In this paper, Brugger uses discourse theory, network analysis, and Ecology of games to explain the difference between the rural and urban approach to renewable energy projects implementation. Surprisingly for the audience, the paper finds the rural implementation problems to be more of political type while the urban is more of an economic one. The result was interesting because it is exactly the opposite in the United States where cities are richer. The discussant, David Konisky, Associate Professor at Georgetown University, believes that measuring discourse is not enough for policy making in and of itself.
The second paper, Renewable Energy Policy Implementation and Retrenchment in U.S. States, was presented by Leah Stokes, a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She investigated the determinants of public support of the renewable energy policies through surveys. Konisky argued that her conclusion was more intuitive to state talking about cost reducing the support while indicating job creation opportunities of the renewable energy policies would increase the support.
Steven Cohen, Public Affairs Professor at Columbia University, presented A Framework and Methodology for Assessing Sustainability Metrics. He stated that if we are supposed to manage sustainability, we must be able to measure it. He brought to our attention that before the Depression, different matrix and indices were introduced but now we need to redefine the environmental, social, government metrics of sustainability.
The last presentation was made by Motto Mildenberger with Organized Economic Interests, Political Institutions, and the Comparative Politics of Carbon Pricing Policy. The study tried to explain the variation of the timing and ambition of carbon pricing at the domestic level. It actually explores the political incentives and plays that effect the climate policies.
The ultimate conclusion of the session is that the conception of sustainability is still not enough, not clearly defined, and that is why we are unsure if the efforts are effective in meeting the sustainability goals and whether measures should be taken differently--and if yes, what these changes should aim for.