The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Comparing Sustainable Energy Tradeoffs


Monday, September 21, 2015 - 4:00pm


Sharon J. W. Klein, Assistant Professor, Economics, University of Maine


Kellogg Room, Elab II



Sustainable energy decision-making requires comparing energy options across a wide range of economic, environmental, social and technical implications. However, such comparisons based on quantitative data are currently limited at the national level. I will present a study recently published in Energy Policy in which we compared 13 currently operational renewable and non-renewable options for new US electricity generation using multi-criteria decision analysis with quantitative input values (minimum, nominal, and maximum) for 8 sustainability criteria (levelized cost of energy, life cycle greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant emissions, land and water use, accident-related fatalities, jobs, and annual capacity factor) and 10 representative decision-maker preference scenarios. I will also discuss ongoing offshore wind research at the University of Maine, as well as new research I am undertaking on community-based sustainable energy.


I have been an Assistant Professor in the School of Economics at the University of Maine since 2011. Before beginning my career in higher education, I taught International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems to high school students in Quito, Ecuador for two years and middle school science in San Diego, CA for three years. I also worked for nearly two years as an environmental technician in San Diego and volunteered for one term of service with the Americorps National Civilian Community Corps. I was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina and traveled with a team of thirteen people to seven states in the Southeast region of the Unites States doing projects in the areas of education, the environment, and unmet human needs. My current research and teaching are interdisciplinary in nature and center on quantitatively comparing energy sustainability tradeoffs through life cycle assessment, multi-criteria decision analysis, and social benefit cost analysis, and engaging students, citizens, policy-makers and other stakeholders in understanding energy issues and making more sustainable choices. I am currently working on three interdisciplinary sustainable energy research projects: National Science Foundation (NSF) Sustainable Energy Pathways of drop-in biofuels from forest biomass; NSF hydropower dam decision-making; and Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions community energy. I teach 2 courses on sustainable energy, one with a service learning component focused on community energy.