Energy systems currently harm the environment in many ways, and this damage particularly hits the poorest communities the hardest. Environmental damage from energy systems comes in many forms: water pollution from power plants and energy extraction (e.g. radiation leakage from nuclear plants, emissions from coal plants, fracking wastewater polluting aquifers, coal ash piles washing into rivers in Colorado and Tennessee), emissions from vehicles in dense urban areas, effects of climate change from release of methane and CO2, etc.
Because of where plants are often located, poor and disadvantaged communities may bear the largest share of the damage. Part of the work of the IPRO team will be to identify and catalog the specific harms that come from the specific energy use associated with the specific community that is analyzed.
Current solutions have only an incremental impact on energy usage and the environment. We have the technology to achieve a greater impact and do so rapidly; however, it will take innovative project identification, evaluation and delivery methods to achieve this greater impact cost-effectively. While appropriate solution strategies vary by locale, the general path the IPRO team will follow is to identify the scope and cost of switching all the fuel sources to renewable/non-damaging sources. The team will then analyze the cost to improve the energy use in the area of study through storage, infrastructure (smart-grid), efficiency and behavioral/cultural changes. The team will then overlay those two analyses to develop a cost-optimal conceptual solution to reduce/eliminate the community impact.
The community scale that is contemplated for this project could be as small as a medium-sized hospital campus up to a community of 150,000 residents, including Bronzeville. This scale is regarded as most viable, effective and manageable by an IPRO team in a one-semester time frame as it applies the following methods and techniques: