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Institute for Energy and the Environment

Energy Security and Justice

Project Goals

The Energy Security and Justice Program investigates how to provide ethical access to energy services and minimize the injustice of current patterns of energy production and use. It explores how to equitably provide available, affordable, reliable, efficient, environmentally benign, proactively governed and socially acceptable energy services to households and consumers. One track of the program focuses on lack of access to electricity and reliance on traditional biomass fuels for cooking in the developing world. Another track analyzes the moral implications of existing energy policies and proposals, with an emphasis on the production and distribution of negative energy externalities and the impacts of energy use on the environment and social welfare.

Energy Security & Justice Team


Benjamin K. Sovacool, PhD, Science & Technology Studies, 2006
Visiting Associate Professor and Project Manager

Professor Sovacool works as a researcher and consultant on issues pertaining to renewable electricity generators and distributed generation, the politics of large-scale energy infrastructure, designing public policy to improve energy security and access to electricity, and building adaptive capacity to the consequences of climate change.  He is a Contributing Author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) forthcoming Fifth Assessment (AR5). 

At the National University of Singapore, he led a series of research projects supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation investigating how to improve energy security for impoverished rural communities in Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. With a grant from the Singaporean Ministry of Education, he also explored how to improve resilience to the impacts of climate change in twelve major metropolitan areas (including cities in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia) in addition to the evaluation of national adaptation projects in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, the Maldives, Nepal, and Vanuatu. He has consulted for the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Program, and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on energy poverty, governance, and security issues.  He has also served in 2012 as an Erasmus Mundus Visiting Scholar at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, where he researched energy security issues for the European Union.

Before then, Professor Sovacool worked on a large grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation's Electric Power Networks Efficiency and Security Program analyzing the barriers to small-scale renewable electricity sources and distributed generation in the United States. He assessed the renewable resource potential of Virginia in conjunction with the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Domestically, he has served in research and advisory capacities for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Semiconductor Materials and Equipment International, U.S. Department of Energy's Climate Change Technology Program, the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank Group, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.   Internationally, he has done the same for the International Institute for Applied Systems and Analysis (IIASA) near Vienna, Austria, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Geneva, Switzerland, the Renewable Energy Network for the Twenty-First Century (REN 21) in Paris, France, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, France.

Dr. Sovacool has published more than 200 academic articles and chapters, and presented research at more than 80 international conferences and symposia. He is the co-editor of Energy and American Society (Springer, 2007) and the editor, author, or co-author of The Dirty Energy Dilemma(Praeger, 2008), Powering the Green Economy (2009, Earthscan), The Routledge Handbook of Energy Security (Routledge, 2010), Contesting the Future of Nuclear Power (World Scientific, 2011), Climate Change and Global Energy Security (MIT Press, 2011), The National Politics of Nuclear Power (Routledge, 2012), The Governance of Small-Scale Renewable Energy in Developing Asia (Ashgate, 2012), and The Governance of Energy Megaprojects: Politics, Hubris, and Energy Security (Edward Elgar, 2013). His books have been nominated for eleven international prizes, and his Dirty Energy Dilemma won a 2009 Nautilus Silver Award.  His opinion editorials have appeared in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle.

He received his PhD in science and technology studies from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in Blacksburg, Virginia.


Christopher Cooper, MA, Mass Communications 2001; JD 2013
Senior Research Fellow

Chris is an expert in national and international energy security policy, transmission expansion and community organizing. He has analyzed the energy security implications of megaprojects in emerging economies, including performing an in-depth case study of large desert solar energy for the Asia Research Institute. He has also written extensively on policies to incentivize distributed generation of small-scale renewable energy units. Under a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Chris evaluated the implementation of smart grid pilot programs on low-income and underserved communities in the U.S. As Executive Director of the Network for New Energy Choices (NNEC), he provided strategic guidance to federal and state policymakers and nonprofit organizations on innovative infrastructure investments designed to advance energy security while increasing sustainability. His extensive analysis of renewable portfolio standards was instrumental during the 2007 Congressional effort to adopt a national RPS. With official United Nation's observer status, Chris served as spokesperson for the global nuclear weapons abolition movement during the 2005 U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty renewal conference. He also directed external communications for the United States' largest public interest group devoted to sustainable city and regional planning. Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Wake Forest University and earned a Master of Arts degree (cum laude) from the University of Miami.


Jay Eidsness, JD 2013
Research Associate

Jay specializes in the ecological implications of energy production on local communities. In 2010, he organized volunteers and local leaders to establish urban community gardens in Peru. He has also analyzed the effects of riparian health on native flora under a project funded by the United States Forest Service. As a Student Certified Attorney for Central Minnesota Legal Services, he has argued motions on housing and consumer protection for underserved families in Minnesota. Jay earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication and biology from St. John's University.

Alex Gilbert, MELP 2013

Alex graduated summa cum laude from Lake Forest College with a BA in Environmental Studies and International Relations, with a Minor in Politics. During his undergraduate career, Alex interned at the Metropolitan Planning Council and ENVIRON. While studying and interning abroad, Alex conducted original field research in Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, India, and Australia for his senior thesis on organizational roles in addressing environmental challenges. This summer, he interned at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, where he conducted a greenhouse gas inventory and researched implementing a GHG reduction goal. At VLS, Alex has been a Research Assistant with the Environmental Tax Policy Institute and cofounded Ideas for Policy, an organization advocating for state climate action in Vermont.


Katie Johnson, JD 2013
Research Associate

Katie has an expertise in renewable energy markets and the effects of energy production on resource availability. For the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Katie authored a report for the Ohio General Assembly recommending policies for stimulating the states renewable energy market. She has worked with Dr. Allen Prindle analyzing the relationship between population growth and water well usage and evaluated how Ohio's energy regulations affect the state's water quality. She has studied in France at the Universite de Toulouse Il-Le Mirail and in the Netherlands at the University of Maastricht. Katie graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Otterbein University.

Brian T.

Brian Thomson, JD 2014
Research Associate

Brian Thomson has almost ten years of experience living in Asia, where he worked for the United Nations, USAID, and the King Mongkut University of Technology. While at the United Nations, he edited the State of the Environment for Asia and the Pacific 2005 report, and helped prepare numerous documents for deliberation by UN member states. Later, he served the UN as a public information officer, in which role he wrote press releases and newsletters and organized press conferences on UN activities in Asia. This included assisting the UN with media coordination Cyclone Nargis relief efforts, one of the most deadly disasters in history. After leaving the UN, Mr. Thomson was a reporting and monitoring manager for a USAID-funded clean energy and climate program that spanned six Asian countries, China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand. He speaks Japanese and Thai.


David Zoppo, JD 2013
Research Associate

David specializes in the energy justice and sustainability implications of multinational corporations. For the ABB Group, North America's leading power and automation technology company, David evaluated internal company safety regulations, reviewed the sustainability of the company's supply chain management procedures and drafted recommendations to improve its compliance with state regulations. He has worked in refugee camps in South Africa and teamed with the AIDS Law Project to advocate for the civil and economic rights of people displaced during a series of xenophobic attacks there in 2008. David holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.