When Judith Landsberg began her master of environmental management degree in the Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) program, she had no idea how far-reaching the impact of her studies would be. Now her master’s thesis could influence several aspects of Bermuda’s energy policy.
In 2013, Landsberg, who holds a Ph.D. in physics and who has years of diverse work experience in the environmental field, became a member of the Bermuda Energy Working Group (BEWG) as a representative of the local sustainability non-governmental organization Greenrock. Her experience with energy efficiency education in the Bermuda community and as a member of BEWG inspired her to write her DEL thesis on a long-term strategy for meeting Bermuda’s energy needs in a cost-efficient and environmentally responsible way.
When the BEWG was approached for comment on a preliminary energy policy crafted by consultants for the Bermuda Department of Energy, Landsberg quickly saw some critical omissions in the proposal.
“It represented a very traditional approach to energy policy based on a narrow cost-benefit analysis of alternatives, and the assumption that demand for fossil fuel-based electricity would continue to increase with some minor supplementation from renewables,” said Landsberg. “I wrote a detailed response, 80 percent of which was cut and pasted from the draft of my masters’ project, to call attention to the need to incorporate demand-side management, to change the way electricity rates are set, and to take into account environmental externalities.”
The timing of her studies could not have been more ideal. A week previous, her thesis advisor, Jonas Monast, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, had referenced just the support she needed for her argument.
“Jonas had mentioned FERC 745—it’s an order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the United States that’s designed to remove barriers to use of demand-side resources. I looked it up and cited it in my response,” said Landsberg. “I also cited a 2014 paper that Jonas co-authored on a multi-benefit framework for cutting emissions and addressing electricity sector changes to support the idea that we should be evaluating and managing long-term risk on a number of dimensions—an issue that the energy policy proposal had completely ignored.”
Landsberg’s paper received positive responses from the Department of Energy and from BEWG members.
“My master’s project for the Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) Program is helping me take an active role in the policy discussion in Bermuda and in improving Bermuda’s long-term energy system,” said Landsberg. She added, “The DEL program content is excellent, absolutely relevant to my work, and I couldn’t be happier with the support I’ve received from Jonas and other DEL faculty.”
Work, Monast said, that is a “wonderful example of a student project with a direct policy application.”
--Story by Melissa Edeburn