The skyline of the city of Holyoke. Credit: Simtropolitan CC BY-SA 3.0

UMass Amherst Selected for $1.1 Million EPA Research Grant to Address Energy Transitions in Underserved Communities

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Aug. 17 that the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been selected to receive a $1,111,418 grant funding research to address the drivers and environmental impacts of energy transitions in underserved communities. UMass Amherst was one of only 11 institutions selected nationwide to share in $11 million for this initiative.

In this program, UMass Amherst will engage with lower income households and neighborhoods in Holyoke to improve knowledge on drivers, barriers and environmental benefits of shifting to using electric sources of energy within households.

krista harper
Krista Harper

“Addressing climate change and ensuring that historically disadvantaged communities are not overlooked as we transition to a clean energy economy is a major priority for EPA,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “This research will help EPA and other entities to better understand how transitioning toward clean energy systems may impact communities, and can help pave the way to a just and equitable energy future.”

“Households shifting to low-carbon, energy-efficient electric systems for heating, cooling and cooking, such as heat pumps and induction stoves, will help us meet climate commitments. This change can also lower costs and improve the comfort and health of people’s homes and neighborhoods, but the challenge remains of how to pay for and encourage the transition. In our project, academic researchers and residents of environmental justice communities will work side-by-side to discover how to upgrade household systems so that low- and moderate-income people, including renters, can fully and fairly enjoy these benefits,” said UMass lead principal investigator Krista Harper.

NEWS Erin Baker
Erin Baker

“In developing a platform for community-based participatory research on energy transition, the project embodies the mission of The Energy Transition Institute here at UMass. We believe that the only way to get a fast and fair transition to a net-zero energy system is to listen, especially to communities who have been ignored,” said Erin Baker, faculty director of the Energy Transition Institute at UMass.


Energy and transportation systems are rapidly shifting away from fossil-based energy systems. These changes will help mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The evolving energy and transportation systems provide both challenges as well as opportunities to improve environmental and public health in ways that also reduce inequities such as environmental health burdens.

This EPA-funded research will increase understanding of the environmental impacts of shifting energy and transportation systems on underserved and Tribal communities as well as what drives decisions to adopt renewable energy sources, energy efficient technologies, and new transportation options. Grantees will engage with communities and Tribes in these projects, learning from their lived experience and expertise to better respond to community needs. These efforts will improve the scientific foundation for the design of robust, behaviorally informed policies and programs to support the sustainable transition to renewable and low-carbon energy systems.

More information about the UMass grant and other funded grant recipients is available on the EPA website.