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Schneider Sustainable Energy Summer Fellowship (2023)

Remote
23 days ago
Full time role

Company

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization. We use law, science, and the support of ...

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Job Description

Overview

The Schneider Fellowships were created for current students at Stanford University to promote the awareness of environmental issues resulting from our past and present energy use. The Fellowship program supports the efforts of non-governmental organizations, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), that are chosen based on their efforts to identify and solve the challenges of developing a more equitable and sustainable energy future.

NRDC is a non-profit international environmental advocacy organization with 3.1 million members and online activists. They use law, policy, and science to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities. NRDC was founded in 1970 and now has a staff of more than 700 lawyers, scientists, economists, policy advocates, communications experts, and others working across the United States and internationally from offices in New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Santa Monica; San Francisco; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing.

Responsibilities

AVAILABLE POSITIONS:

 

PROJECT 1: Data Analysis and Modeling Clean Energy Transition

Office: New York, NY or Washington, DC  

Program/Project: Science Office/Federal Clean Energy Policy  

 

NRDC's Science Office is seeking a Fellow to assist with data analysis and modeling of the clean energy transition in the U.S. and its implications for domestic and international decarbonization strategies. The fellow will primarily work alongside the Policy Analysis team, with opportunities to collaborate with program advocates depending on fellow interest.  

   

NRDC’s Policy Analysis team provides economic and energy modeling, data analysis, and other technical support to policymakers, industry, and environmental groups to advocate for policies to reduce climate-warming emissions across the economy. The Schneider Fellow will be an integral part of our team, analyzing the design and implications of energy policies and developing technical resources for our climate advocacy at the state, federal, and international levels.  

   

Fellows typically work on one to two long-term projects over the course of their fellowship, with opportunities to assist with shorter-term assignments complementary to their in-depth work product. Project scopes are developed in consultation with the fellow to gauge interest and skill set. 

 

Past and prospective long-term fellow projects include:  

  • Developing maps, visualizations, and geospatial analyses of clean energy trends and policies, e.g. electric vehicle availability, renewable energy siting constraints, and air pollution impacts on environmental justice communities 
  • Building dashboards to access and manage renewable energy, climate, and policy data, such as designing and building a prototype of “NRDC’s “Data Hub” 
  • Assisting with the development, drafting, and publication of NRDC’s annual energy report, which presents a birds-eye view of the trends, milestones, and overall picture of the U.S. energy sector based on most recent data (see previous reports here)
  • Assisting with state energy policy analysis and modeling: the end-to-end process of interpreting and analyzing data from state energy modeling then producing written materials (issue briefs, blogs, and fact sheets) on the results to support NRDC’s advocacy at the state level (e.g., a past fellow was a co-author of a "Climate Action in New Mexico" issue brief)
  • Producing data visualization, drafting comments, and conducting research to support the modeling of, and advocacy for, proactive federal energy policies (e.g., this blog written by a past analysis fellow on clean energy funding from federal agencies)
  • Conducting analyses of environmental justice and equity impacts of market-based policies, in consultation with other NRDC programs   

   

Shorter-term projects may include assisting with the development and review of other climate & clean energy advocacy products, such as blogs, public comments, testimony to state utility commissions, and consultant tools and reports.

PROJECT 2: Advancing Equitable Decarbonization of the Transportation System in the US 

Office: Washington, DC 

Program/Project: People & Communities, National Policy Team, Transportation Policy Analysis  

 

NRDC's People & Communities (P&C) Program is seeking a Fellow to work with its National Policy Team to advance equitable decarbonization of the transportation system in the United States -- the country's highest-emitting sector. The fellow is likely to work closely with members of the National Policy Team, Science Center, P&C Transportation Team, and Clean Vehicles & Fuels teams, with the potential to engage in place-based advocacy at the local or state level.  

 

NRDC's transportation advocacy is focused on the equitable implementation of two major federal laws -- the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA; also commonly referred to as the "infrastructure law"), and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Together these landmark laws allocate historic funding into the United States' transportation infrastructure and to support the national transition to zero-emissions vehicles. The fellow's specific project will be developed in consultation with the fellow based on interests, skills, and timely NRDC priorities. A key component of ongoing collaborative initiatives is policy and technical analysis of electric vehicle charging, highway expansion and maintenance, public transportation, bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, and other transportation projects delivered in part thanks to funding from IIJA and IRA.  

 

The National Policy Team works with policymakers and a diverse array of local, state, and national advocacy partners to address priority environmental issues across the P&C Program's portfolio of work. While this fellow's workplan will focus on transportation, the fellowship will also offer limited exposure to Program's broader advocacy efforts, which include, for example, buildings, renewable energy, water, food and agriculture, toxic pollutants, climate resilience, and green finance. In addition to the fellow's primary project assignment, the fellow will have opportunities to contribute to other, smaller projects based on interest and capacity -- for example NRDC blogs, public comment letters, or supporting other research or advocacy tool development.

PROJECT 3: Sustainable Water and Energy Use in California 

Office: Santa Monica, CA 

Program/Project: Nature Program, Water & Agriculture Team  

 

The Nature Program’s Water & Agriculture Team would like to request a Schneider Fellow to help with our team’s burgeoning work on sustainable water & energy use in California.  

 

California is part of a semi-arid agricultural production region with highly variable and overallocated surface water and dwindling groundwater resources. To address the problem of matching water demands with the available water supplies in space and time, California has become the most hydrologically engineered place on earth. A vast network of water diversion/extraction and conveyance systems move water hundreds of miles across the state. However, climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of drought, straining existing overallocation of water supplies and further limiting the state's water availability.  

 

California’s water system is also the single largest consumer of electricity. About 20% of the state's electricity is used to move water across the state. The Pacific Institute projects that energy used for agricultural water pumping will emit 1.4 million tons of CO2 annually by the year 2035. In addition to reducing emissions, California’s water conveyance and delivery system can be an important resource for the electricity grid. In theory, pumps can lift and move water whenever renewable and excess solar power is available; therefore, eliminating power curtailments and limiting the need for installing batteries or other higher cost alternatives. This could significantly contribute to California's transition to a net zero carbon economy. 

 

The water system that serves California’s agricultural industry can play a major role in the state’s sustainable future, but it is in dire need of modernization. California's water system was built in the 19th century, is governed by 20th century laws, and is expected to adapt and respond to 21st century challenges.  

 

A consultant is helping us analyze opportunities to modernize California’s agricultural water delivery infrastructure, including calculating the energy savings and emissions reductions potential of this modernization and ways to utilize demand/response so that water for agriculture is delivered using renewable energy. We hope to come out with a final report sometime early in 2023. Our team would like to request a Schneider fellow to help us strategize and implement the findings of our report. This will include research and writing on the topic; developing presentations for agency and legislative briefings, and partner meetings; direct advocacy (if the fellow is permitted to do lobbying); and stakeholder development and engagement. 

 

Additionally, some of our California partners are exploring how to increase adoption of agrivoltaics—the practice of grazing animals underneath solar panels on agricultural lands—as a way to move the state’s agricultural energy use toward renewables. NRDC has been asked to be a partner in this work, but unfortunately, due to staff constraints, we are unable to. If selected for a Schneider Fellow, our team will also ask the Fellow to help us explore a new portfolio of work on agrivoltaics.

PROJECT 4: Equitable Building Decarbonization 

Office: Washington, DC 

Program/Project: Resilient Communities program, Equitable Building Decarbonization Team  

 

The Equitable Building Decarbonization team within the Resilient Communities program at NRDC is focused on addressing climate change at the intersection of buildings, racial equity, and housing affordability. As we work with partners to equitably decarbonize the buildings that we live and work in, it is critical that we protect people against displacement and gentrification and ensure that the benefits of climate investment go to those who need them most. The Schneider Fellow participating in this program will take part in stakeholder meetings, observe strategy development, and contribute to the development of supportive research and materials as NRDC builds out this portfolio of work. We propose the following project for a potential Schneider Fellow, reporting to the Senior Housing Policy advocate.  

 

Background  

Decarbonization of housing is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change – and exists at the intersection of the triple crises of climate change, affordable housing shortages, and entrenched, systemic racial injustice. Studies show the connection between safe and healthy housing and positive mental health. A safe and healthy environment is a predictor of more positive life outcomes. While no communities can fully avoid the worst impacts of climate change (extreme weather, decreased air quality, rising temperatures, water levels, and energy prices), the data indicates that systemic racism, past and present, has led to significant racial disparities in both renter demographics and adverse outcomes experienced by renters, such as cost burdens, evictions, and homelessness. Households of color and Latinos are much more likely than white households to be extremely low-income renters, who face the most severe shortages of affordable housing and are the most vulnerable to extreme weather events and volatile energy costs.  

  

When efficiency and electrification retrofits are deployed in partnership with community and in concert with health and safety improvements, investment in this space can greatly improve the life outcomes of residents and to act as a vehicle for addressing some of the economic and wealth-building inequities created by systemic racism. However, such investment also carries significant risk of increased rents and property taxes stemming from increased property values and market interest, both of which can lead to forced displacement and gentrification. Decarbonization without anti-displacement protections risks doing more harm to already underserved communities. This role will explore the feasibility and likely effectiveness of anti-racist and anti-displacement strategies and concepts that have been theorized and attempted at various local, state, and federal levels in conjunction with climate related investments. There will be the potential to create and organize supporting project materials on the most promising actions and policies to minimize displacement risks for low- and moderate-income people of color, adding to NRDC’s strategy on equitable building decarbonization  

 

Potential Project Activities  

  • Identify existing conditions and climate-related risk factors that exacerbate housing displacement vulnerability for underserved groups.
  • Review and evaluate anti-displacement strategies and policies on the state, local, and federal level. 
  • Gather and/or create case studies of particularly successful or promising anti-displacement strategies or best practices that can be used in conjunction with decarbonization actions.
  • PROJECT 5: EPA GHG Reduction Fund Design and Implementation 

    Office: Washington, DC 

    Program/Project: Healthy People, Thriving Communities  

     

    NRDC’s Healthy People, Thriving Communities (HPTC) program is seeing a Fellow to work with the Green Finance Center (GFC) on the design and implementation of EPA’s new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GHGRF). The $27 billion GHGRF creates a first-of-its-kind program at the EPA to rapidly deploy low- and zero-emission technologies and projects to parts of our country that have thus far been overlooked in the clean energy transition. The GHGRF will provide catalytic financial support to nonprofit lenders, states, municipalities, and Tribal Governments for projects that reduce or avoid GHG emissions, with the majority of funds flowing to low-income and disadvantaged communities. While the GHGRF has the potential to transform US climate finance and deliver life-improving outcomes for low-income and disadvantaged communities, that potential will only be realized if EPA designs and implements the program in a thoughtful, flexible, and equitable way. 

      

    As an unbiased intermediary with subject matter expertise in this space, the GFC is engaged with EPA and other stakeholders, as well as the diverse ecosystem of eligible organizations, to build a common vision for an equitable and effective GHGRF. NRDC experts in finance and green banks are working alongside our place-based teams across the country and leveraging expertise across the eligible verticals of GHGHR deployment (buildings, energy, transportation) to support effective and efficient implementation. 

      

    The Fellow will contribute to this work in a number of ways, as determined by the quickly evolving implementation landscape. Specific work areas may include conducting research and analysis on sector-specific deployment opportunities and barriers; best practices in the design of inclusive and equitable planning and engagement processes spanning the federal to local levels; complementary state and local programs; and best practices of financial assistance program design and management. In addition, the Fellow will contribute to written advocacy and the overall coordination across stakeholders to build a common vision and inform GHGRF design. Work products and deliverables may include blog posts, internal memos, briefing memos to external stakeholders, and/or public comments.

    PROJECT 6: Sustainable Energy Data Infrastructure and Governance 

    Office: New York, NY or Washington, DC 

    Program/Project: Science Office 

     

    Description: The Science Office is seeking a fellow to work with the Data Science team to improve NRDC’s data infrastructure and data governance related to sustainable energy. Specifically, the fellow will improve access to data and data science materials across NRDC by growing and promoting NRDC’s Data Hub.  

     

    During the course of the fellowship, the fellow will identify publicly available and internal NRDC data that are relevant to assessing the influence of policies and programs on sustainable energy outcomes. The fellow will develop automated processes for extracting publicly available data from resources such as EPA, EIA, FERC, national labs, IEA, and World Bank, and create user-friendly outputs (e.g., summary statistics, downloadable tables, visualizations) that can be utilized by NRDC staff and our partners to assess and support policy and project-level goals and outcomes. 

     

    If it is of interest, the fellow may embark on a project that will demonstrate Hub capacities and allow the fellow to expand technical and data integration/communication skills. The fellow might assess the warehoused data using techniques like inferential statistics, machine learning, and/or predictive analytics to identify associations between specific policies/programs and sustainable energy uptake, and to predict future outcomes. For example, did the expiration of the federal 1603 grant (2011) and/or the reduction of the federal tax credit for solar panels (2019) significantly impact solar uptake, controlling for cost? Do the trends differ in states with additional incentives or policies, e.g., North Carolina’s renewable energy tax credit? What can be learned from any identified associations so that we might promote policies and programs that lead to greater uptake of sustainable energy in the future? This kind of project might incorporate activities such as: 

    • The development of graphics and/or interactive interfaces to communicate key findings to diverse audiences, including NRDC colleagues, policy makers, community members, and/or the media
    • The creation of additional publication materials, such as blog posts and fact sheets
    • The participation in science storytelling to share the findings of the project and to promote science in environmental advocacy in accessible ways to non-technical audiences 

    Please indicate relevant technical skills and experiences on your application, such as: 

    • Database experience
    • Programming languages (e.g., R, Python, SQL, PL SQL)
    • Data visualization software (e.g., Tableau)
    • GIS (e.g., ArcGIS, QGIS, ArcPy)
    • Statistical and predictive analysis, query writing, machine learning, other relevant methodological skills

    For all Fellowships:

    The Fellow will gain skills in research and analysis, written advocacy, oral advocacy, legislative and/or regulatory processes, and inclusive and equitable policy development. The Fellow will be an integral part of NRDC’s team and will gain exposure to a variety of activities including attending policy meetings, working with private sector stakeholders, engaging in joint advocacy with other partners, conducting policy analysis and development, and doing legislative and regulatory research and drafting.

    Qualifications

    You must be a current Stanford student to apply. Eligible candidates include those with undergraduate or graduate level experience in energy, science, engineering, economics, public policy and/or law, including candidates with multi-disciplinary experience and/or joint degrees. We particularly encourage candidates whose identities have been historically under-represented in the environmental movement. You should apply if you are eager to be part of a cross-cutting team; learn about clean energy and equity; gain valuable policy, writing, speaking, and analytic skills; and to be an active team member tackling climate, equity, and policy issues.

     

    Compensation will be provided in the form of a stipend, and all out-of-pocket expenses will be reimbursed, from Stanford University’s Schneider Summer Fellowship program.

     

    NRDC is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, both in our work and in our workplace. We believe that celebrating and actively welcoming a diversity of voices and perspectives is essential to solving the planet's most pressing environmental problems, and we encourage applications from candidates whose identities have been historically under-represented in the environmental movement. We are an equal opportunity employer and do not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law. Pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance, we will consider for employment qualified applicants with arrest and conviction records.

     

    This is a Stanford paid internship with a full stipend of $9,500.

     

    To apply, please visit www.nrdc.org/careers and upload your resume and cover letter through our online portal. Due to the high volume of applications NRDC receives, we will only contact candidates we would like to progress through the search process. Please no phone calls, emails, faxes, or in-person resume drop-offs. Please reference where you saw this posting. NRDC is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

    If you are having technical difficulty while applying, or if you are a person with a disability and you need assistance applying online, please reach out to iCIMS Customer Care by dialing 1-800-889-4422.

     

    For further information about NRDC, please visit www.nrdc.org.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a non-profit environmental advocacy organization. We use law, science, and the support of ...

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