The Nexus of Community Needs and Public Policy

Renewable Energy as a Public Good

Photo: humphery / Shutterstock.com

This blog is part of Caffeinated Commentary - a monthly series where the Millennial Fellows create interesting and engaging content around a theme. For the inaugural CC, the Millennial Fellows explore how their personal perspectives influence the policies they're interested in. 

My interest in public policy began as a teenager, shadowing my father at his job as a Senior Research Scientist. My weekends were often spent listening to interviews he conducted with leaders of communities decimated by health issues, such as HIV/AIDS, and addiction. My father was tasked with organizing workshops as a platform for the affected to voice their concerns to government officials. These concerns would be used to draft policy recommendations for the federal government to improve social programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Through this experience, I became enamored with the nexus between a community’s needs and public policy as a tool to realize those needs. My father would often stress to me what he considered to be the fundamentals of producing effective policy initiatives: communication and collaboration. These concepts continue to resonate and guide how I think about public policy to this day.

Although my interest in public policy was passed down to me from my father, our paths differed. At the age of sixteen, I embarked on a life changing journey throughout mainland China. During my enrollment in a yearlong study abroad program, I found myself traveling to remote villages far from the bustling cities that reflected the country’s expeditious economic growth. The picturesque views surrounding these isolated settlements only served to conceal the insidious yet paramount issue villagers faced in their daily lives, that of energy insecurity. Prior to my travels throughout China’s rural countryside, I was never exposed to the consequences that stem from a lack of access to energy. As a citizen of the United States, I was fortunate enough to have access to a developed and extensive energy infrastructure. This meant access to potable water and other fundamental necessities. Unfortunately, a majority of the communities I visited in rural China did not have the same luxury, as they were isolated from any manner of an electric grid. The experience was certainly humbling, but more importantly the exposure I gained firsthand solidified my passion for international affairs and energy security.

During my undergraduate academic career at Northeastern University, I cultivated a passion for energy policy and combined this with my studies in Japanese language and culture. Shortly before my freshman year at Northeastern, Japan faced a set of horrendous earthquakes and tsunamis known as the March 2011 disaster. What ensued was the nation’s worst energy crises, as all of Japan’s nuclear power plants were taken offline for safety precautions. Keeping in line with my father’s advice, I decided that the best way to learn about Japan’s energy policy was by communicating with those affected by the crises and collaborating with policy institutes in the region.

In the summer of 2012, I participated in a study abroad program focused on Japanese energy policy in Tokyo, Japan. Conversing with students at my host institution, Meiji University, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the anti-nuclear (and pro-renewables) sentiment that was prevalent in the country after the 2011 disaster. Seeking to build off of this experience, I returned to Japan in the fall of 2014 to study Japanese politics, as well as engage in a research based internship focused on renewable energy policy in the region. As a research assistant at the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), I was able to support the organization in producing the framework for a local green energy guarantee of origin certificate system; a truly remarkable highlight of my undergraduate education.

These experiences have led me to my current position as a public policy fellow with New America’s Resource Security Program. I have gained great knowledge from my experiences in East Asia. However, I believe that it is time for me to apply this knowledge towards strengthening energy policy within my home country, the United States. The New America Millennial Public Policy Fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to utilize my existing knowledge of energy policy towards conducting research that would better U.S. energy policy for a safer and cleaner America.

Author:

Braxton Bridgers is a Millennial Public Policy Fellow in New America’s Resource Security program. A Fort Washington, Md. native, Bridgers has a bachelor’s degree in international affairs with a minor in law and public policy from Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.