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Debbie O'Leary
School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Last modified: Friday, August 20, 2010

Energy-based economic development: A fad or here to stay?

Aug. 20, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- More than $50 billion in federal stimulus funds were allocated to support energy technology innovation, green jobs and low-income energy efficiency assistance programs.

"Early reports indicate the funding has, in some cases, outpaced the ability of the agencies to implement their most shovel-ready projects," said Sanya Carley, assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and co-author of "Energy-Based Economic Development," a forthcoming article in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Sanya Carley

Sanya Carley

Energy-based economic development, or EBED, which is an emerging discipline in the field of economic development and energy policy and planning, has received little coverage in energy, policy and development literature.

"With national and international attention focused on the convergence of these fields, researchers and practitioners have a rare opportunity to develop and implement the tools necessary to evaluate and communicate the potentially broader impacts that EBED may hold for society," Carley said.

Because EBED has not been well defined, there are risks to its viability. "If ways to leverage and sustain the injection of funds in this discipline are not identified, the opportunity may end before we can achieve either energy policy or economic development goals," she said. "Even with performance metrics that are easy to understand and measure -- such as the described benefits of and established techniques for some energy programs -- EBED might not be successful without the coordination of all the various 'moving parts.'"

According to the article, EBED solutions require an understanding for global circumstances, accompanied by local action and the efficient production of local energy resources. Solutions should include partnerships between public and private actors; assistance from policymakers, economic development practitioners and energy users to help new technologies gain a market share; infrastructure development to encourage energy efficiency and new clean energy; an improved business climate for clean energy, such as ensuring predictable energy costs, the coordinated development of energy industries, and a trained workforce for clean energy jobs; and an attempt to integrate social development with energy development efforts.

"The alignment of energy policy and planning with economic development offers decision-makers an open window to create new policies and practices to meet these emerging challenges to communities," said Carley.

Carley, whose research focuses on energy policy and economics, electricity technology innovation policy, applied econometrics, and policy instruments, can be reached at 812-856-0920 or