Energy Equity

The Challenge

Underserved and overburdened communities are most at risk from the effects of climate change globally, and the steps we take to tackle the climate crisis and move away from our dependence on fossil fuels must result in affordable energy access for all and equitable distribution of the benefits of those energy and climate investments.

How are we making a difference?

The Energy Technologies Area (ETA) recognizes the need to conduct research and demonstrations at the community level, with input from and the participation of community partners, to align with community goals and values.

We have developed tools and resources to help facilitate a just and equitable energy transition. These tools include developing technologies that foster community resilience, increase access to transportation electrification, and decarbonize manufacturing and the grid.


Modeling Mobility for Cleaner Transportation

People in low-income communities face greater health risks from pollution related to transportation. A tool from Berkeley Lab models everyday travel decisions and simulates transportation options to anticipate effects on emissions, congestion, and energy use, as well as the mobility, cost, and health impacts. Developed in partnership with UrbanSim, Inc., the Behavior, Energy, Autonomy, and Mobility (BEAM) Comprehensive Regional Evaluator (CORE) Modeling Framework helps government agencies, policymakers, and businesses make informed and equitable planning decisions.


Protecting Vulnerable Residents from Extreme Heat

Heat is responsible for the largest number of weather-related deaths in the United States. The California Toolkit for Heat Resilience in Vulnerable Environments (CAL-THRIVES) software developed by Berkeley Lab in partnership with the City of Fresno, the California Environmental Commission, and the University of Southern California helps identify affordable, zero-energy measures that can keep low-income and elderly residents cool and safe during heat waves.

The Justice 40 Tool

A Decision-support Tool to Equitably Address Household Energy Insecurity

A model to support equitable deployment of energy interventions, by determining the least-cost portfolio of place-based energy investments to reduce energy insecurity of vulnerable populations.

We partner with community-based organizations, public, and private agencies to ensure their needs and experiences inform our research. In this way, we are able to create technologies and solutions that will have real-world impact.

Fresno Community Energy Action Plan

Building Healthier and More Energy Efficient Communities

Pollution, poor air quality, and inadequate air conditioning lead to health problems for many members of disadvantaged communities. A plan developed by Berkeley Lab in collaboration with local stakeholders combines energy efficiency, electrification, and distributed energy resources to deliver energy equity, air quality, and climate benefits. Researchers joined forces with the City of Fresno, the State of California, numerous other public and private agencies, and Central Valley community organizations to identify common goals and priorities.


Putting Clean Energy in Reach for Low-Income City Neighborhoods

Clean energy and energy efficiency improvements can be too expensive for some homeowners and beyond the control of most renters. Led by UC Berkeley and funded by the California Energy Commission, the Oakland EcoBlock designed by Berkeley Lab combines a solar-powered microgrid, home retrofits, and shared electric vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions and electricity bills, while boosting energy savings for low-income urban dwellers.

Efficient and Healthy Schools

Improving Air Quality and Student Performance

More than 4 million students at 7,000 schools in 44 states will benefit from better air quality and energy efficiency based on Berkeley Lab technical assistance provided by a joint initiative of the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Education. Well-ventilated classrooms with effective filtration systems can improve student performance and health in these low-income school districts.

ETA scientists have several demonstration projects that prioritize underserved and overburdened community accessibility to new energy technologies and strategies.

Demographics of Rooftop Solar

Shedding Light on Inclusion Factors

Understanding who benefits — and who doesn’t — from the solar energy boom is one way to start closing gaps in clean energy equity. Berkeley Lab researchers have compiled demographic data on 3.3 million U.S. households, representing more than 85% of the nation’s rooftop-solar-powered homes. Information on factors including income, race, ethnicity, education level, occupation, age, and home value inform clean energy policies, to potentially make them more equitable for families in lower income brackets.

Air Quality

Vehicle Air Pollution Emission Control Technologies

Heavy-duty diesel trucks are essential for the movement of goods in California and the nation, but they contribute significantly to the burden of diesel particulate matter and nitrogen oxides in the air. Nitrogen oxide emissions are linked to significant health impacts, and many low-income communities who live and work in close proximity to these sources of pollution have been more significantly impacted by these emissions. Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley scientists work together to lead research in measuring the performance and durability of after-treatment emission control technologies as well as effectiveness of vehicle inspection and maintenance programs in reducing emissions from other vehicle types in compliance with EPA standards.

Research Highlights
Empowering a Neighborhood to Breathe Easy

Air quality sensors are available to the public, but inequities in their adoption remain.

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Big Batteries on Wheels Can Deliver Zero-Emissions Rail

Berkeley Lab study shows how battery-electric trains can deliver environmental justice, cost-savings, and resilience to the U.S.

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Electricity Regulation with Equity and Justice for All

Berkeley Lab report outlines systemic changes needed to advance equity in electric utility regulation

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