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The Alternative Energy Future

2010–Present

Most climate and energy studies conclude that the United States will require a substantial transformation of its energy system in order to address pressing economic, environmental, and geopolitical challenges. But the widespread adoption of new energy technologies will also require a societal transformation.

Through its Alternative Energy Future project, the Academy is working to develop a solid understanding of the legal, social, and economic factors that can either inhibit or facilitate transformative change in the U.S. energy system.

The complex issues shaping the energy future demand interdisciplinary analysis and new collaborations among professional communities. To this end, the Alternative Energy Future project brings together representatives from industry, government, academia, and the nonprofit sector. The Academy organizes workshops to foster new research collaborations and to develop agendas for future research.


Activities

The Alternative Energy Future project examines the nontechnological barriers to the adoption of new energy technologies and how these barriers might be overcome.

Current project activities focus on two goals:

  • Demonstrating the value of social science in accelerating the process of designing and adopting innovations in the physical energy system. The project committee has identified seven existing energy-related projects that use social science to serve as case studies for this demonstration project.
  • Creating a research program aimed at understanding how governing institutions and policy design must adapt to the demands of a changing energy infrastructure. This objective requires building support in both the academic and funding communities for studying issues that have not received much attention.

Recent project activities and publications include:

Related Publications

Published from   thru      Type:    
 Title and SynopsisTo Order
Decision Science and Market Transformation Pathways
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2016
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The Alternative Energy Future, Vol. 2
Winter/2013

MIT Press, 2013
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The Alternative Energy Future, Vol. 1
Spring/2012

MIT Press, 2012
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Beyond Technology: Strengthening Energy Policy through Social Science
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2011
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Summary

To meet growing energy demands and the parallel challenge of confronting climate change, society must embrace and implement new technologies. The Alternative Energy Future project examines how to facilitate the adoption of cleaner and more efficient energy technologies using knowledge from the social and behavioral sciences.

Project Chairs

Granger Morgan, Carnegie Mellon University

Maxine L. Savitz, Honeywell, Inc. (ret.)

Robert W. Fri † (2010–2014), Resources for the Future


Deceased

In the News

4/8/14
Energy Research & Social Science
8/16/13
Huffington Post

Highlighted Activities

Project co-chairs Maxine L. Savitz and Robert W. Fri discuss the Alternative Energy Future project at a briefing on Academy research projects and studies, October 2013

Watch Project Chair Robert W. Fri deliver introductory remarks about The Alternative Energy Future project at The National Press Club, April 25, 2012, Washington, D.C.

View the full briefing.

Featured Publication


Beyond Technology: Strengthening Energy Policy through Social Science presents an agenda for social-science research on energy and recommends five strategies for enhancing collaboration between social scientists and policy-makers.

Beyond Technology was cited at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Quadrennial Technology Review as evidence of the importance of applying social science expertise to the design of energy technologies and policies.

Download the report.

Learn More About this Project