Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

College/School

College of Science and Mathematics

Department/Program

Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Pankaj Lal

Committee Member

Clement Alo

Committee Member

Neeraj Vedwan

Committee Member

Sheryl Tembe

Abstract

Clean energy policy is critically important in driving reductions of greenhouse gases and mitigating climate change. As clean energy technologies improve over time and interact with social systems and broader energy markets, there is a need for innovative environmental management that supports development of new clean energy policy. Understanding where these technologies may be deployed, quantifying the anticipated benefits, and mitigating risks are required for successful policy optimization. With these considerations in mind, this dissertation explores geothermal heat pumps (GHP), solar photovoltaics, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). We call upon spatial economics to investigate these topics by incorporating the biophysical environment, socioeconomic factors, and economic considerations in our methodology to approach this problem from a holistic environmental management perspective.

Reducing energy end use is a climate mitigation strategy that can be applied across the building, industry, and transportation sectors. Increasing energy efficiency, particularly in the building sector, is a promising means to reduce energy end use. In the second chapter of this dissertation, we perform a place-based investigation of GHP systems in New Jersey. In doing so we provide new baseline information on which building sectors this technology is most used and identify areas of significant clustering. Both of which provide insights for new energy efficiency policy within the study area. In the third chapter, we conduct a life cycle assessment of geothermal heat pumps to assess the cradle-to-grave environmental and human health impacts throughout the lifetime of a system operating in New Jersey. The results of this section highlight lower environmental and human impacts associated with GHP systems operating within New Jersey compared to the rest of the United States. We also conclude that GHP systems are significantly less impactful throughout their lifetime and operation as compared to other heating and cooling configurations that are common in the state.

A combination of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar photovoltaics will be an integral part of the clean energy electric generation portfolio of the future. Understanding where these systems are best located and how the public values their benefits can support smart policy decisions. In the fourth chapter, we evaluate solar photovoltaic potential using hosting capacity interpolation, multi-market suitability models, and remote sensing. The findings show hosting capacity of potential solar siting locations varies within each electric distribution company (EDC) territory. The results of the suitability models highlight areas for targeted local investigations of project suitability and community solar off-taker potential. Our municipal remote sensing analysis yield valuable local scale information of roof geometry, flood hazards, and solar radiation potential which can be used to streamline system siting and design. In the fifth chapter, we conduct a consumer willingness to pay survey for potential community solar customers in New Jersey. Evaluating the responses of over six-hundred residents underscores the common barriers to traditional residential net metering, such as home ownership and financial requirement. It also illuminates consumers’ willingness to participate in community solar projects that improve environmental quality and are sited in commercial settings and landfills.

Reducing the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the electric generation sector will be crucial in mitigating future climate change. Emission trading schemes (ETS) are a regulatory approach that forces emitters to internalize the negative externalities of carbon dioxide with the goal of driving emission efficiency improvements and creating funding mechanisms to support other climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. In the sixth chapter, we perform a qualitative policy analysis of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) ETS in the context of generation shifting mitigation. We identify the best mitigation approaches as the program expands to be a combination of increased monitoring and modeling, promoting load reductions through efficiency, and expanding the RGGI program to states within distribution systems that have partial state participation.

In New Jersey, successful climate mitigation and clean energy transitions are a function of policy, available technology, and energy markets. Historically, stringent air quality regulations and inexpensive natural gas have led to efficient fossil generation within the state. Additionally, early progressive solar policies have led to a robust solar industry and resulting overall in-state solar photovoltaic capacity ranking high in the nation. Although low-hanging fruit may be relatively sparse, current political environments in the state have been supportive of improved climate action and sparked increased potential for academic research to make tangible contributions to new clean energy policy. As the state continues to transition towards a clean energy future, government administrations, regulatory agencies, grid operators, research institutions, and stakeholders must work alongside each other to develop new policies that support increased climate mitigation.

Currently in New Jersey, the potential of clean energy has not been adequately researched, particularly on local and regional scales. The goal of this research is to address this gap by contributing to the body of knowledge in our applied subject areas. The spatial economic approach can be used effectively in clean energy investigations because energy is inherently influenced by economics and geography. We anticipate the overall findings of this work to be applied within the study area to increase clean energy generation and access, promote the clean energy economy, and conserve valuable landscapes.

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Available for download on Wednesday, December 23, 2020

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