"It is becoming increasingly clear that routine energy analyses do not offer suitable answers to these sorts of issues. The enduring questions they provoke involve aspects of equity and morality that are seldom explicit in contemporary energy planning and analysis."
The world is transforming. Humans need energy to improve the quality of life for a growing global population. Expansions of energy extraction and generation combined with other land-use trends to transform the planet's climate and ecosystems. Humans have pushed the earth into a new epoch, which researchers and advocates call the Anthropocene or the Capitalocene. Changes in market costs and intentional efforts to decarbonize the energy system are driving a shift toward intermittent and distributed generation technologies. These tech systems require a reinvention of the energy system, particularly storage capacity, as we seek to build societies that are both sustainable and just.
Meanwhile the global economy continues its transformations of social and ecological relationships. More land is transformed by development every year, slicing up the planet's greenspace. The transformations leave many communities and places struggling with economic, social, and environmental legacies, particularly from large scale resource extraction or waste production. These legacies often include interdependent problems of economic depression and job loss, environmental pollution, and the social and cultural malaise of brain drain and demographic decline.
We need truly creative solutions to address this interconnected bundle of complex challenges. On one hand, the world is running out of undeveloped spaces that can host the new energy infrastructure required for the transition. Meanwhile, many places struggle with brownfields and post-industrial heritage, looking for ways to re-energize their communities.
The Keweenaw Energy Transitions Lab's overarching objective is to explore, investigate, and develop pathways for transforming these old environmental and economic liabilities into productive clean energy assets for the benefit of sustainable and prosperous communities. From the beginning, our studies consider how post-industrial places serve important social and cultural functions in communities; they are not empty wastelands upon which external actors can bring simple transformation. KETL's collaborative research and educational activity seeks to create an inclusive design process that expands the energy sector's social license to operate, at scales which range from the municipal to the supranational. We work with a wide range of partners—including industry, domestic and international universities, foundations and NGOs, government agencies, and community organizations—as we pursue this objective.
KETL is part of Michigan Technological University's Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) and includes partnering faculty, students, and alumni from every college on our campus. While born in the interdisciplinary interactions of the two research foci in the Department of Social Sciences, Industrial Heritage and Archaeology and Energy and Environmental Policy, KETL includes core research team members from more than a dozen academic units. We are building a truly transdisciplinary research community that can train a new types of scientists and scholars, where struggling with highly complex, wicked problems lead to the convergence of diverse methods and practices, eventually establishing a newly integrated professional field.
“Michigan Technological University sits on the beautiful shore of Portage Lake in Houghton County, Michigan. The Keweenaw Peninsula is Gakiiwe-onigamiing in Ojibwe: "the place where they go strait across a point by portage." Our campus lands are located within Ojibwa (Chippewa) homelands and ceded-territory established by the Treaty of 1842. These are lands and waters we share with the Native American nations in Gakiiwe’onaning (Keweenaw Bay), Gete-gitgaaning (Lac Vieux Desert), Mashkii-ziibing (Bad River), Odaawaa-zaaga’iganing (Lac Courte Oreilles), Waaswaaganing (Lac Du Flambeau), Miskwaabikong (Red Cliff), Wezaawaagami-ziibiing (St. Croix), Zaka’aaganing (Sokaogon Mole Lake), Nagaajiwanaag (Fond du Lac), Misi-zaaga’iganiing (Mille Lacs), and Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag-ininiwag (Sandy Lake).”
Great Lakes Research Center
Michigan Technological University
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931