Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series

World-class insights helping to inform and shape public
policy on earth resources, energy, and the environment


The Payne Scholars program gives students the opportunity to perform research, collaborate across campus and engage with a broad network of international experts on global policy challenges. 

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Spring 2021

Using Transmission and Distribution Policy to Support Renewable Energy Deployment in the US: A Systems Approach to Accelerate Decarbonization

Payne Institute student Tara Peldon writes about how in the United States, electric transmission infrastructure and policy are stalling decarbonization and limiting grid optimization. As renewable energy deployment and consumption continue to grow in the US, the need for an efficient, equitable, and resilient transmission system has only becomes timelier and more significant. This paper considers how the US could quicken decarbonization by enacting and building upon transmission policy that supports hybrid and place-based deployment strategies. The two policies proposed in this paper aim to address shortcomings in current transmission and distribution regulations and compliment recently proposed federal plans to ultimately increase grid resiliency.  June 15, 2021. 

Development of Community Solar Index (CSI) To Maximize Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Population Participation In Community Solar Projects

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Amogh Thatte writes about how a community shared solar system is a solar-electric system that provides power and financial benefits to its subscribers. Recently, constant steady growth in installed shared solar capacity but abysmal participation from the low-to-moderate income (LMI) community has alarmed the researchers about the execution of the community solar. The literature review highlights a need for a specific quantitative metric that would combine technical, social, and economic aspects of community solar development. This paper formulates the community solar index (CSI) based on the location-specific net-zero PV panel size, the LMI population, and annual savings from solar energy. The CSI helps us maintain the focus on energy justice by identifying high-impact states whose LMI population would benefit the most from installing community solar. May 26, 2021.

California’s Valiant Attempt to Address Resiliency through Microgrid Commercialization Falls Short

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Emily E. McDonald writes about how recently, the interplay between extreme weather events and the US electric grid has taken center stage. This past summer, California utilities instituted rolling blackouts to fight wildfires caused by downed electric lines. These events have brought to light the need for a more resilient electricity grid that can provide power when demand sky-rockets, supply is removed, and transmission lines cannot carry power. A new microgrid plan approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in January aims to address resiliency through commercialization of renewable energy microgrids. While this is a good first step toward rapid commercialization, the focus of this policy is too narrow; It incentivizes only utilities to build microgrids through financial schemes that do not adequately address high economic and regulatory barriers to entry. March 12, 2021.

The Success of FERC Order 2222 Lies in the Hands of Grid Operators

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Jesse Dugan writes about how on September 17th, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order 2222, which aims to remove barriers to the participation of distributed energy resource (DER) aggregations in wholesale power markets. Heralded as a “game-changer,” a “landmark action” and “the most significant order the Commission has ever issued” by experts in the field, Order 2222 has the potential to help make the grid more resilient, sustainable, and affordable. However, issuing the order is not enough to guarantee that it will achieve its goals; that depends on how grid operators decide to implement it, and how the market responds. March 10, 2021.

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Austin Kinzer writes about the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) incentive program that is designed to achieve policy goals of social equity, efficient siting, and effective grid integration by incentivizing specific land-use, offtaker, and system design characteristics. A closer look at the systems operating under the SMART incentive with data from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) reveals that the effectiveness of these incentives is variable and policy changes may be necessary to achieve desired outcomes, particularly for low-income communities.  March 4, 2021.

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Fall 2020

Tribal Landscapes and the Energy Transition: Approaches to Supporting Renewable Infrastructure Projects in Indigenous Communities

Payne Student Scholar Jocelyn Johnson writes about how renewable energy will be a crucial part of the United States’ response to climate change. Tribal lands are considered ideal locations for renewable infrastructure projects, but tribes cannot realize the full potential power generation on these lands without proper funding and educational opportunities, in addition to the willingness of the U.S. government and utility companies to relinquish some of their power.  This report explores the historical context of energy production on Indigenous lands and discusses how the United States can lead the way to recognizing tribal sovereignty and begin healing historic wounds inflicted by the fossil fuel industry during the energy transition.  March 10, 2021.   

Implementing a Carbon Tax in the United States to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Payne Student Scholar Torre Brown writes about how in support of the current fight against global climate change, over forty countries around the world have already implemented a tax on carbon emissions in some capacity. The United States as a whole is not one of these forty countries despite being one of the largest contributors to global carbon emissions. This paper analyzes what some approaches to a country-wide implementation of carbon tax could be in the United States, and evaluates their potential success economically, socially, and in terms of overall carbon reduction.  March 10, 2021.   

Energy Subsidy Reform: Social Implications & Public Acceptance

Payne Student Scholar Nina Guizzetti writes about how countries all over the world have begun to alter or eliminate their subsidies on oil and gas. While there are many motivations for this change, they most often stem from a fiscal and environmental standpoint.  Once these subsidies are altered or eliminated, low income households are put at risk. The objective of this paper is to examine the social implications of subsidy reform in order to determine the factors that influence public acceptance of subsidy reform.  March 9, 2021.   

Development of Electric Vehicle Battery Supply 

Payne Student Scholar Kylee Shiekh writes about how as the demand for electric vehicles grows, so does the role that lithium-ion batteries play in the market for electric vehicles. The lithium-ion battery takes a significant portion of the cost and range capability of the vehicle. It is becoming increasingly important for vehicle manufacturers to create secure and reliable supply chains for batteries. There are a range of approaches being pursued including vertically integrated supply chains, partnering between vehicle manufacturers and battery manufactures, as well as securing direct supply from mining companies for materials. March 2, 2021. 

A Proposal to the Argentinian Government: The Implications of Expanding the Renewable Energy Sector

Payne Student Scholar Camila Garcia-Ferreyra writes about how as a third world country, Argentina would greatly benefit from renewable energy. Various lecture series as well as many scholarly and popular articles support this idea. As countries continue to develop, it is essential to provide a reliable stream of energy. Even more so, encouraging renewable energy can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which is ideal for combating climate change.  March 2, 2021.

Influence of Carbon Capture and Storage in the Brazilian Oil and Gas Industry

Payne Student Scholar Chiang Cheng Siew writes about how in recent years, climate change and global warming have spurred efforts in a global scale to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through carbon capture and storage (CCS). In this paper, the implementation and development of CCS in the oil and gas industry in Brazil was discussed in terms of the developing technologies, energy operations, policies, and challenges faced by the Brazilian national government and Petrobras. The Brazilian economy relies on extractive industries (oil, gas, timber, and mining) and agribusiness activities, and this current economic model jeopardizes Brazil’s energy and climate security.  March 2, 2021. 

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Spring 2020


Payne Student Scholar Brett Shearer writes about how the majority of states have mandated renewable energy targets, and electric utilities have supported the transition to net-zero generation with self-imposed emissions targets. Consumers appear to agree, with many calling for action to fight climate change. We have thus reached a rare consensus between significant numbers of policymakers, the electric utilities, and the general public. That consensus, however, does not hold when the topic turns to how to achieve the agreed objective. The disagreements over the necessary policy steps moving forward now risk slowing or stopping the progress that has already been made within the electricity sector. July 21, 2020.


Payne Student Scholar Gabe Stephens investigates how the energy transition has created a conflicting set of circumstances for Colorado and its communities. The state’s renewable energy industry has experienced rapid advancements, while the incumbent coal industry has endured a steady decline. Communities that have long relied on coal for their economic well-being are faced with an increasingly difficult outlook. Few areas in the state are experiencing this more than Moffat and Routt Counties, who account for the majority of the state’s remaining coal industry. The State government has pledged to support these communities through a ‘Just Transition’ initiative designed to offset the economic impacts associated with the industry’s decline. June 26, 2020.


Payne Student Scholar Tyler Pritchard investigates the viability of increased public transportation capacity and the potential benefits of such improved capacity in the state of Colorado. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that Colorado is capable of improving its public transportation capacity and able to achieve substantial environmental benefits from such development. This analysis is based on the comparison of transportation data from Colorado, Sweden, and Norway in terms of annual transit rides per head, transportation sector energy consumption, transportation sector CO2 emissions, and annual vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT).  June 25, 2020.


Payne Student Scholar Caleb Workman writes about how Chinese investment on the African continent, while contentious, has many benefits. Currently, Chinese private and state-owned firms are heavily involved in Africa through direct investment and commodity-backed loans. These firms invest in infrastructure, natural resource extraction, manufacturing, and service industries. African countries contain natural resources and a low-wage labor market, while Chinese companies have expertise and capital. As a result, the relationship between China and Africa presents mutually beneficial opportunities. African countries gain the potential to experience exceptional economic development in the future due to Chinese involvement.  June 16, 2020.  


Payne Institute student John Massale comments about the recycling policy regarding Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) varies by region, county, and city.  This research examined the type of policy that leads to the largest diversion of compostable materials from landfills.  The data was gathered by performing small case studies of a handful of US cities that have established voluntary, mandatory, or incentivized composting programs.   January 27, 2020.


Payne Institute student Anna Evans comments on Colorado’s relative position in setting emission reduction targets, an analysis of Colorado’s potential reduction strategies, and looking specifically at the effects that improved insulation or the adoption of LED lighting in residential homes would have on residential emissions.  January 9, 2020.


Payne Institute student Will Callahan comments about emissions from the transportation sector that pose a great risk to global health. Vehicle electrification is one way to mitigate tailpipe emission, thereby reducing the health risk. Gov. Jared Polis and Lyft recently announced Lyft’s plan to add 200 electric vehicles (EVs) to the Denver fleet. Data from EVI Pro Lite, Auto Alliance, and a doctoral dissertation on ride-hailing were used to estimate the impact of Lyft’s decision on Denver’s emission profile and existing charging infrastructure. An initial injection of 200 EVs will have a small but non-negligible effect on emissions.  January 6, 2020.

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Fall 2019


The Payne Institute Commentary Series has added a Student Viewpoint: Colorado’s 2019 Climate Action Plan by Madeline R. Macmillan. November 11, 2019.