Helping people see and think about energy in new ways to find lasting solutions to climate change
Bridget Clark is a Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis. Her research focuses on innovation, economic sociology and sustainable energy transitions. Her dissertation uses a comparative case study of controversial energy transport infrastructure projects in the U.S. to understand the shifting public discourses around energy, how various stakeholders evaluate the of risk and benefits of such projects and articulate their ideal energy future, and how differing regulatory and institutional contexts mediate these disputes and shape infrastructure investment decisions.
Clark is Professor Andrew Hargadon’s graduate research assistant and is co-authoring a methods paper on microhistorical case studies. She was a 2016 Mellon Public Scholars Program Fellow and 2018/19 cohort member of the Emerging Energy Professionals Program at the UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute. She was a Leaders for the Future Fellow in spring 2019.
My research focuses on the people side–politics, cultures, organizations, social movements, behaviors–of energy systems, and how to overcome these barriers to decarbonize our society.
Describe your project or venture.
My dissertation compares the public controversies around two energy infrastructure projects—a coal export terminal on the West Coast vs. a HVDC transmission line for wind energy in the Midwest—to uncover how different stakeholder groups asses the risk and benefits of the project and articulates how this project fits (or doesn’t) their ideal energy future. It also investigates how the different institutional and regulatory environments shape the response to each controversy.
What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?
By uncovering the process of how energy imaginaries are produced, negotiated and acted, my dissertation will provide policy makers and interests groups a more comprehensive understanding of the social changes necessary to decarbonize society and mitigate the effects of climate change. I hope to apply this knowledge in my summer internship with the policy group at the California ISO, and in future roles at one of the key state policy and regulatory agencies following graduation.
I love getting folks to think about how factors such as culture, politics and other socioeconomic factors shape energy consumption and could offer new tools and help overcome barriers as we transition our society to more sustainable energy systems.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Helping people see and think about energy in new ways that can lead to more lasting solutions to climate change. In the U.S., experts have tended to approach energy as either an engineering or economics problem—if we can price energy correctly, or invent the right technology, we can solve climate change. While these are both necessary pieces of the puzzle, I love getting folks to think about how factors such as culture, politics and other socioeconomic factors shape energy consumption and could offer new tools and help overcome barriers as we transition our society to more sustainable energy systems.
What was the most important thing you learned at the Entrepreneurship Academy?
How to pitch myself and my project in 140 characters or less!
What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?
In pitching my idea for an energy consulting firm at the entrepreneurship academy, a mentor told me to not wait until I had built a name for myself at another such firm or agency, but that I had the expertise now to do it, especially when I completed the Ph.D. She said that she wished she had started her own venture right out of graduation, because by the time she felt ready she had too many other responsibilities (mainly family) to risk going off on her own. Her advice was to take the leap early!
What is the most important thing you discovered in the Leaders for the Future program?
How to do the $5 dollar experiment before the $10 before the $100—that is, to test ideas early and often before investing too much time and resources into something that won’t work out.
How will your experiences help you to change the world?
This program showed me how much work and skill goes into translating academic research for lay audiences, and that if I want my research to have an impact I must play an active role in putting it into the hands of people and organizations that can act on it.
How will your experiences as a Leader for the Future and at the academy shape your professional future?
Leaders for the Future provided me with structured time and support to start preparing myself fora career outside the academy, by encouraging me to convert my CV into a resume, build my LinkedIn profile, expand my network by doing informational interviews, and learning how to more clearly and concisely pitch myself and my research. I’m now confident and better able to articulate why the energy industry needs more sociologist and what unique perspective and skill set I could bring to an organization like the California ISO, where I will intern this summer.