Skip to content

Date/Time: Mon, March 18th, 2024 at 1:00 pm

Location: 426 Renaissance Park and Zoom

Title: Energy Justice, Energy Policy, and Transformative Climate Action”


As the world grapples with the dangerous geopolitical and climate impacts of continued fossil fuel reliance, energy systems around the world are shifting from centralized fossil fuel systems to more distributed, efficient, and heterogeneous configurations that use various renewable energy sources. Recognizing that the climate crisis requires an energy transition to move away from fossil fuels to renewables, this dissertation is centered around understanding the complexities and barriers in renewable deployment and fossil fuel phase-out. This understanding aims to improve energy policymaking and facilitate a just energy transition. This dissertation research is rooted in the framework of energy justice and integrates interdisciplinary perspectives such as the policy process, communication, and sociology. This analysis uses mixed methods, including computational text analysis, qualitative methods, and social network analysis (SNA).

This dissertation research consists of three stand-alone articles. The first article analyzes the policy provision of a low-income solar program as well as its public comments to understand the policy process of developing solar programs at the state level in the United States. This study emphasizes procedural injustices in US energy policy and highlights the importance of more inclusive policymaking process. The second article examines how fossil fuel companies (represented by Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, and TotalEnergies) engage in energy transitions and how those companies communicate about renewables and natural gas on social media. The identified pattern of communication – linking renewables to natural gas and promoting natural gas as part of their corporate response to climate change – suggests an evolution of fossil fuel companies’ strategic efforts to delay the energy transition and obstruct climate action. Applying a text mining and network approach, the third article uses the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) to examine temporal shifts in narrative strategies used by competing advocacy groups to support or oppose oil and gas development through Twitter (now called X) from 2009 to 2023. By incorporating Structural Topic Modeling (STM) and SNA methodologies into the NPF, it adds to the line of research on narratives, stories and storytelling in energy and climate change studies and challenges us to consider narratives collectively rather than in isolation.

Committee Members:

Jennie C. Stephens, Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy at Northeastern (Chair)

Daniel Aldrich, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Northeastern

Cassie McMillan, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology and Criminal Justices at Northeastern 

Hongtao Yi, Professor at Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University

Yutong Si