Economic Development and Energy: From Fad to a Sustainable Discipline?
AbstractEnergy-based economic development (EBED) can provide economic, social, and environmental benefits, such as job creation, industry development, and alternative energy deployment. The United States has recently devoted substantial financial support to EBED efforts. Although early assessments of these efforts are promising, the discipline is at risk of becoming compromised or discredited. It lacks a basic framework, common definitions, and clear goals, which is problematic for a field that requires cross-disciplinary coordination and collaboration. Most EBED evaluation efforts take place before a project is underway; without enough postproject analyses, practitioners are left with unreliable impact estimates. Finally, like early-stage energy technologies themselves, EBED relies heavily on potentially unpredictable or inconsistent funding. These factors render many practitioners ill-equipped to effectively plan, implement, and evaluate specific EBED initiatives. This study offers a working definition, typical goals, and categories of approach with the aim to mitigate difficulties in communication and understanding across disciplines.