Supporting rural and Indigenous communities with energy justice
In addition to operating our own laboratories and facilities across the nation, MRIGlobal is one of two partners in the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC, which manages the NREL laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Many rural and Indigenous communities experience overcrowding, air quality problems, lack of water, poor sanitation systems, and energy costs up to four times the national average due to the impacts of climate change. The modern building stock in Alaska was not designed for the climate, resulting in high energy costs, structural failures, and widespread health impacts for Alaskans. When elders are impacted by these issues and can no longer live on their own, their communities lose mentors, teachers, and keepers of wisdom and intergenerational cultural knowledge.
As we transition to a sustainable energy future, we must ensure the benefits and the costs are more equitably distributed. However, examples of centering equity in energy technology innovation and the energy transition are most often focused on the deployment phase of the “research, development, demonstration, and deployment” spectrum. While important and essential, deployment represents only the final stage of technology innovation and adoption. As a result, in many cases it will be more difficult to equitably deploy technology that was developed without regard to equity.
As an alternate approach, the R&D community should take the additional step of centering equity into the early stages of the technology readiness level (TRL). An example of an equity centered tech solution that addressed specific challenges unique to a historically disadvantaged community is NREL’s work in Unalakleet, Alaska, which is near the Bering Sea.
At the heart of this work is listening to communities to ensure technology reflects their culture, knowledge, and needs. Through the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC), NREL has partnered with communities and tribes to design and co-create sustainable, resilient buildings that thrive in the local environment. They’ve designed storage containers outfitted with energy-efficient mechanical systems, an ADA-compliant bathroom, and a kitchen that reduces energy costs by roughly 50 percent, while providing clean and healthy indoor air. These furnished containers “plug in” to existing or newly-framed structures and cost 40 percent less than the same house built conventionally, while 75 percent of the construction jobs for the buildings are created within the community in framing and on-site construction.
In this example and dozens of others, NREL researchers include local and Indigenous voices throughout the innovation process to ensure technology is appropriate for the climate, environment, and culture. It is equitable technology in action. As a member of the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, the Management and Operations contractor for NREL, MRIGlobal will work to ensure the execution of this important initiative.
Getting started with MRIGlobal
Contact MRIGlobal to further understand our work managing and operating laboratories across the country, including NREL. As a contract manager, we apply vast expertise in governance and contract assurance through strategy, leadership, stewardship, and engagement. As a not-for-profit contract research organization, we have proven ourselves as an objective partner driven to make our clients’ products more successful. We specialize in defense, human health, pharmaceutical sciences, in-vitro diagnostics, energy and environment, agriculture, and global health.
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