Research Focus

Energy Sustainability
Environmental Justice
Global Environments
Sustainable Development
Water Sustainability
Political Ecology

Renewable Energy Analysis

CEEP is involved with research as well as outreach programs that support and promote renewable energy adoption and development. In recent years, CEEP research has focused on the potential of distributed generation of renewable energy and has evaluated policy needs for a new decentralized supply architecture. CEEP is also involved in projects that research the development of PV devices for scalable to commercial production which provide a route for continuous improvements in performance and affordability. CEEP has been involved in researching for best practices in applying solar energy technologies in low-income housing. CEEP has also led research to develop innovative models of evaluating solar potential using a combination of GIS and PV Planner©, a software developed at CEEP.


DOE-NSF: Terawatt-scale Solar Economy.
Solar Policies to Promote Energy Justice – A Renewable Energy Applications for Delaware Yearly (READY) Project.

Creating Sustainable Energy Utilities

Researchers at CEEP developed the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) model for redefining energy use. The SEU, a public/private partnership, provides a focal point for the development of low/no carbon strategies utilizing conservation, energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy to empower community based energy change. Conceived at CEEP, the SEU becomes the point-of-contact for sustainable energy users as an alternative to the conventional utility which can be seen as the point-of-contact for “more” energy supply . This model has been adopted by Delaware and the District of Columbia in the US. In December 2011, the White House recognized the SEU as a viable platform to engage sustainable energy and energy efficiency. The Delaware SEU, so far, has created over 1,000 jobs and saved more than $148 million in bills in its single bond installment. After paying off the full capital cost of the new technologies and associated borrowing, monitoring and verification costs, participants will realize a net savings of $38 million. The model received international attention when the Asian Development Bank recommended its use to its Member States at its 2011 Clean Energy Forum. CEEP is involved in supporting and promoting this model in the US as well other countries including China, India and South Korea, while also working on publications on the model.


“Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU): Understanding the Basics.” FREE Policy Brief Series, January 2013: No. 1
Sustainable Energy Utilities: New Energy Strategy for the New Climate – Special Issue of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society on Sustainable Energy Utility.

Clean Energy Futures 

In clean energy futures, CEEP envisions a key role for energy reductions in the form of ‘negawatts’ through energy efficiency. CEEP research also critically evaluates the potential of onsite solar PV and solar thermal systems meeting energy demand across communities as well as that of solar-generated hydrogen for road transport. Policy plays a key role in promoting the development and dissemination of these technologies. Working with local governments, universities and community organizations , CEEP regularly evaluates policies and targets that aim to realize a clean energy future.


Towards a sustainable energy future for South Korea: Strategies in the Aftermath of the Fukushima Mishap.

Energy Modeling

CEEP develops and applies computer models to evaluate energy scenarios and analyze policy and technology impacts. For instance, CEEP has developed PV Planner© with support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The software simulates the performance of a PV system operating in either a supply-only or in a dispatch mode and allows for financial feasibility analysis of such PV systems using relevant physical, economic, financial and policy data. CEEP also created EEPEM – Energy Efficiency Potential Estimation Model. The model evaluates potential energy savings through energy efficiency measures based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy. To that end, the model estimates technical, economic and program potential of energy efficiency measures for specific program participation rates and funding levels, measure life and turnover rate. It includes a Green Financing module which analyzes the potential and impacts of clean energy investments self-funded from guaranteed savings streams. The CEEP Carbon Cycle (C3) Model is a mathematical representation of the core model developed by faculty and researchers of the Climate and Environmental Physics .

Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland. The C3 model allows the user to estimate future global carbon concentration levels under different carbon emission scenarios for major Annex I and non-Annex I economies. The model can help to evaluate future carbon emissions pathways to mitigate climate change impacts. In collaboration with Management Research Institute (MRI), South Korea, CEEP has developed a recursive dynamic hybrid CGE (Computable General Equilibrium) model for the evaluation of potential impacts of certain policy interventions such as a carbon tax, renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and a cap-and-trade system on the electric power sector specifically and on a national economy in general. It has been demonstrated for the South Korean utility sector and its economy.


Nuclear Power Critique

Nuclear energy is often promoted as clean energy because of its low CO2 emissions. However, the sustainability of an energy system depends on more factors than the level of its emissions. In the wake of nuclear disasters, questions are raised whether nuclear power is truly as clean and safe as advocates claim. While some countries have begun decommissioning nuclear power plants, several countries mainly in the developing world are seeking to build large-scale reactor complexes. This makes the evaluation of nuclear power a fundamental question. CEEP has long been involved in research on the viability of nuclear power while at the same time recommending alternatives. From its work in the U.S. challenging nuclear power’s technocratic bias to efforts in South Korea, Taiwan and India to analyze risks, costs and benefits our researchers have identified the ideology of nuclear optimism and the unmet economic and environmental promises of its enthusiasts.


Energy for Rural Development 

Rural energy needs are often different from urban requirements, and so are the contexts of development. Rural societies in developing countries are largely off-grid. Access to energy can become the dividing line between developed urban society and developing rural life. Recognizing this, CEEP leads research addressing rural energy needs through decentralized small scale renewable systems. Efforts are made to promote innovation on behalf of energy sustainability. Our analysis has examined solar, wind and bioenergy technologies on scales appropriate to meet local rural energy needs in a sustainable manner. An understanding of science, technology, policy and political economy in rural contexts is emphasized, while respecting cultures and maintaining livelihoods.


Climate Justice

CEEP has participated as an observer organization since 1992 in the UN-sponsored process for negotiation and implementation of climate change response policies. Through over two decades of participation in this process, CEEP has been guided by an equity- and sustainability-based approach that calls for substantial domestic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by Northern countries over the next 50 years.  CEEP’s research focuses on climate change as a justice issue where there is urgent need to recognize the unequal distribution of the vulnerabilities caused by the phenomenon. Options which adhere to principles of democratic equality and sustainability are analyzed to identify appropriate choices to de-carbonize the human footprint and restore the atmosphere to its commons status. CEEP has developed computer models that links emissions paths of Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries to interrelated goals of per capita CO2 parity and atmospheric GHG concentrations consistent with long-term sustainability. CEEP’s position with respect to climate justice is published in an extensive body of publications. See for example:


Discourses in International Political Economy

An attempt to explore the concept of environmental justice in the global context, CEEP collaborates with leading scholars from around the world to explore routes to a new understanding of our condition. Work in this area seeks to go beyond simple parables of indifference, prejudice or appropriation, forging instead an understanding of international political economy itself based on critical analysis with timely discussion of current ecological, cultural as well as economic issues.  Contributors have included Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain, Wolfgang Sachs, Leigh Glover and Daniel Faber.

Environmental Justice: Discourses in International Political Economy

Community and the Environment

CEEP has been involved, since its creation, in research to evaluate environmental risks faced by urban communities. Researchers use tools like GIS to map risks from contamination, especially around brownfields. CEEP research takes a multi-pronged approach that addresses mitigation both within and outside the home, protection from future environmental harm, and providing access to health and related resources for all community members. CEEP is also involved in community outreach activity that utilizes education to empower families and communities as energy users to reduce the home energy burden by demystifying energy consumption and costs, and providing participants with the knowledge and tools required to control and reduce their energy consumption.


Climate Change: Science, Policy and Practice
Global scale efforts

CEEP has been actively involved in generating and disseminating knowledge about the global impacts of climate change. CEEP has contributed, since 1992, to the assessments prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As well, CEEP has participated in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been involved in a number of individual projects related to the Convention and ongoing activities, and has been an observer organization and participant in the Conference of the Parties process. CEEP conducts on-going research for the production of position papers, research monographs, and published articles, and periodically organizes and participates in NGO forums, individually and with collaborating organizations.


Local Action and Planning

CEEP recognizes the power of community-initiated local level bottom-up efforts in addressing global level problems faced by climate change. CEEP works with community stakeholder groups consisting of representatives of government, business, labor, civil society and academia to identify a range of policy initiatives to reduce GHG emissions in ways that would be cost-effective and technically feasible. CEEP also works with local communities to promote local decentralized energy systems in urban and rural areas across the world through the CEEP developed model of the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU).


Studies in Biodiversity, Social Equity and Indigenous Knowledge Systems

One of the key impacts of urban development is the loss of biodiversity as a result of destroyed habitats. Some of the most biologically diverse areas in the world are also inhabited by indigenous populations. Their culture is a thriving example of co-existence and co-evolution as a part of the ecosystem, as their livelihoods depend on the flourishing of these biological areas. Yet, today, both indigenous communities and biodiversity “hot spots” are in danger. The protection of social and ecological values requires an appreciation of the many-faceted and diverse links between culture and ecology. CEEP has been researching these issues, with particular attention to the effects of large-scale development projects such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and the Narmada Valley Development Project. CEEP research also investigates biodiversity and social equity as principles for regional sustainable development in partnership with local organizations in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, several Caribbean nations and elsewhere.



Sustainable Cities Initiative

CEEP research recognizes the critical role cities play as energy consumers in finding solutions to energy and environmental problems that also impact economic security, community self-sufficiency, and urban vitality. CEEP is a co-organizer and co-founder of the International Solar Cities Initiative (ISCI), and is active on a global scale in the debate on urban sustainability. A recent example is our research using the in-house software PV Planner©, satellite imagery, and GIS to map rooftop solar potential for megacities like Seoul to small towns like its own host (Newark). The power of community-driven, bottom-up initiatives is appreciated and local communities as change agents for achieving social, economic and ecological balance is often promoted. Through sustainable land use, water resources management, ‘greening’ transportation, recycling, maintaining biodiversity and ‘green’ economic planning, CEEP is forging new models for delivering sustainable cities in the US, as well as in countries of Asia and Africa.


Redefining Science, Engineering and Technology for Sustainable Applications

Science, engineering and technology power a modern world of growth, but this world also has a legacy of environmental harms. CEEP researchers are searching for ways to redefine the way science, engineering and technology are applied. Research at CEEP focuses on studying the feasibility for developing sustainable applications using scientific and engineering knowledge while also evaluating “best practice” energy and environmental policies that can promote and incentivize sustainability. Our research includes projects that identify bioregional solutions to conserve energy and materials, to enhance local food systems, to develop healthy water sheds and to design urban green infrastructure.


Sustainable Futures

CEEP recognizes the strong potential for Africa, Asia and Latin America to lead the search for sustainability, and at the same time it realizes the challenge created by large populations and ever growing economies to undermine this goal. Countries on these continents will play a prominent role in determining the social and environmental future of the world. As the economies and technologies of these countries take shape, they have choices: follow the way that most industrialized countries in the west have; or leapfrog to a more sustainable future. CEEP collaborates with local organizations, governments, universities and research centers to develop scenarios as well as make policy recommendations for the emergent leaders of our future.


Water Quality and Conservation

Point- and nonpoint- sources of pollution threaten the supply of clean drinking water. Water shortages, high water prices, high groundwater extraction that threatens ecosystem health, and damaging infrastructure projects are often consequences of water management plans which fail to sufficiently recognize water as a necessity of life. Access to water should not be governed by commodity price alone but by principles of basic rights. Research at CEEP explores policy options and practices to enhance water quality and opportunities to reduce water consumption needs through policies that promote efficiency and conservation. This incorporates the evaluation of various models of conservation including conservation-oriented rates of water supply, various demand-side water management measures like the use of conservation devices, and ways to create awareness of the crisis at hand and disseminate knowledge of possible solution-oriented actions.


Water Conservation-Oriented Rates: Strategies to Extend Supply, Promote Equity, and Meet Minimum Flow Levels.

Global Water Resources Management (Stormwater and Water Supplies)

As an increasing number of our communities undergo urbanization, impervious land cover rapidly spreads, thereby reducing the rate of infiltration of precipitation and increasing stormwater runoff. This leads to a number of environmental problems like flooding, erosion of soil, sediment and non-point source pollution in streams and rivers. CEEP projects view water resources management through the perspectives of ecosystems services and environmental justice, attempting to assess the distribution of risks and benefits amongst all strata of society. CEEP research has previously addressed policy approaches to improve aquatic ecosystems, prevent their deterioration and restore their vitality. Stormwater best practices and integrated watershed management are some examples of the approaches explored in this field of study.


An Institutional Approach to River Basin Management: Conflict Resolution in the U.S. and South Korea – AWRA International Conference.
SET 2009 – Sprawl and Water: A Development of Water Indicators for Sprawl Control.

Water, Climate, and Equity

Climate change endangers water supplies in developed and developing countries. Changes in rainfall patterns intensify storms and cause flooding in some areas leading to water table saturation and rise in salinity of water supplies, while decreasing availability in other areas leading to droughts that exacerbate existing water shortages. Warming in high altitude regions is melting glaciers that communities downstream rely upon for their water supply. As these glaciers recede, future water shortages would become more common. To add to this, rising sea levels triggered by these changes put at risk livelihoods of large numbers of coastal residents worldwide. Projects at CEEP explore these relationships between water and climate and offer policy alternatives to address climatic impacts on community water supplies.


Improvement of Regional Equity through Reduction in Water Debt.
Climate Change in the Lower Colorado River Basin (Development and Research Agenda).

Water-Energy Nexus

Global society is facing vulnerabilities with respect to two key resources: water and energy. CEEP recognizes both, the impact of water supply on energy and energy supply on water. Research in this area concerns policies to ensure water sustainability while addressing energy security. State and local level government strategies promoting both demand-side and supply-side water conservation are evaluated as well. Other wide-ranging water-energy concerns like energy-intensity of water treatment and supply systems and the sustainability implications of hydropower generation are assessed.


Synergetic Effects of Sustainable Water and Energy Planning: Integration of Demand- and Supply-side options.
Studies On Planning Sustainable Environment – Integration of Water into Land-Use and Transportation Planning: Sprawl and Water.


Too often, explanations of society-nature relations have been fragmented along disciplinary lines and plagued by dualistic thinking that analytically isolates physical and social phenomena. Political ecology is an interdisciplinary, non-dualistic strategy that remains under development, and perhaps deliberately so, seeking to describe the dynamic ways in which, on the one hand, political and economic power can shape ecological futures and, on the other, how ecologies can shape political and economic possibilities. Often identified with political economy, political ecology frequently takes political economy’s interest in the expression and influence of state and corporate power on environmental politics and combines this with insights derived from understanding and analyzing environmental influences on social activity. In this manner, political ecology extends theoretical inquiry beyond the insights of the conventional social and natural sciences. Political ecology’s ability to engage the philosophy and values of ecological justice has made it attractive to many who expect analysis to facilitate social change.

CEEP has developed a range of seminars and undertaken a variety of projects and activities that have examined, developed, and applied political ecology. Many CEEP students have employed this approach in their own research.


“Relocating Energy in the Social Commons: Ideas for a Sustainable Energy Utility.” 2009. John Byrne, Cecilia Martinez and Colin Ruggero. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, Vol. 29, No. 2: 81-94.
“Sustainable Activism, The Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, and Experimental Learning.” 2009. Durbin, Paul. Problem of Sustainable Development vol. 4, no. 1: 15-32.


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