By Kara Baskin | MIT Sloan Ideas Made to Matter | January 27, 2021
As the U.S. begins to transition away from fossil fuels, policymakers are confronting a host of social, economic, and health burdens caused by the existing energy system.
Innovators in the energy space are examining these issues through the lens of racial and social justice, acknowledging that communities of color often bear the brunt of such problems — such as higher utility bills, heightened susceptibility to air and water pollution, and increased vulnerability to natural disasters.
This connection is giving rise to the growing field of energy justice, according to Shalanda Baker, the newly named deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Energy and author of “Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition.”
“Energy justice specifically focuses on the ways communities should have a say in shaping their energy futures through policy involvement … as well as ensuring that the policies that we’re developing, particularly in this moment of energy transition, don’t have unequitable impacts on the most marginalized communities,” said Baker, speaking last fall at a presentation hosted by the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative.
Baker, a professor of law at Northeastern University, is co-founder and co-director of the Initiative for Energy Justice, which aims to deliver equity-centered energy policy research and technical assistance to policymakers and frontline communities. She spoke with John Sterman, faculty co-director of the Sustainability Initiative, on ways to place equity at the center of energy policy design.