Monthly Archives: May 2013

Balancing Benefits: What should be prioritized in energy efficiency policy?

?????????????????Energy efficiency offers many benefits: lower energy bills for residents, a more manageable electric grid for utilities, and fewer carbon emissions for us all. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) added another policy goal when it asked that energy efficiency also serve as an engine for job growth and economic recovery. Designing a large-scale energy efficiency initiative that satisfies multiple objectives is challenging, and it raises important questions about what the ultimate goal of such policies are and what kinds of performance metrics should be used to gauge success.

In his thesis, Josh Sklarsky (MCP ’10) looked at the various lenses through which ARRA’s efficiency programs have been viewed. He noted that, while the primary goal of ARRA funding was to rebuild the economy in a more sustainable way by creating “green jobs”, its two main mechanisms for accomplishing this built on existing programs with separate established goals. The first was the Weatherization Assistance Program, which began in the 1970s and is intended to reduce energy bills for low-income residents. The second was the Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant program, established in 2007 to enable community-level efficiency improvements. Josh describes how, by offering increased funding for both programs along with an additional objective, ARRA created an amount of uncertainty for program managers who had to decide how to proceed.
Josh also discusses the varying metrics proposed for measuring the success of ARRA, although he found a problem with their overwhelming reliance on quantitative means. To understand both whether ARRA efficiency programs succeeding and what level of success they had, he suggests that DOE grant monitors conduct a qualitative review of community-level efficiency plans and use the results to create a standard evaluation methodology for determining what’s working.  Read more about Josh’s thoughts on providing Federal guidance for local efficiency programs in his thesis here.

Water, Water Everywhere? A Method for Managing a Constrained Resource

By all appearances, we are living in an increasingly resource-constrained world. This is particularly true of water, which promises to be a continuing source of conflict among nations and water users of various kinds. But is it possible to forge a new way of thinking about water, one that looks at water rights as an opportunity for mutual gain rather than as a zero-sum competition?


In our new book, Water Diplomacy: A Negotiated Approach to Managing Complex Water Networks, Shafiqul Islam and I propose a new framework for managing water resources that emphasizes negotiation and collaborative decision-making. We note that the dominant model for managing water rights—a systems-based approach that determines optimal managements strategies through quantitative means—is increasingly inadequate for dealing with the messy interactions between science and policy. Instead, the complexity of water management demands a negotiated approached that accounts for the practical difficulties of responding to natural, social, and political considerations simultaneously.

In suggesting this, we step outside the traditional way of thinking about water rights, a zero-sum competition steeped in game theory where hostile actors vie over a limited resource. Instead, we suggest that water be treated as a flexible and frequently noncompetitive resource, and that it be managed through a collaborative process that aims to achieve mutual gains for all parties involved.

Water Diplomacy lays out this new method of water management, and includes an analysis of water management theory to date as well as a model role-play simulation intended to educate readers and stakeholders about the Water Diplomacy Framework. It is available through Routledge and Resources for the Future Press.