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Human Geography of Energy: Combining Remote Sensing and Social Science Approaches

About the Project

This research program seeks to combine remote sensing and social science methods to study energy development, energy use and inform energy policy. This is a novel research program that does not exist at the leading energy research centers in the world. The impact of this research program could yield new and significant insights in how energy is measured and studied. The research team has launched two pilot projects in 2017, with an eye toward expanding KAPSARC’s research into RS3 by the end of 2017 and into 2018. These projects blend remote sensing techniques with social science approaches to understand how energy use and energy development are affecting communities, cities and regions.

Key Points

Human Geography of Energy describes a methodology that utilizes remote sensing and social science methods to answer research questions about energy use and energy development. To explore the potential of this approach, KAPSARC organized workshops in London and Boulder, Colorado to work out whether technology and tools had matured sufficiently to execute such a program and deliver policy relevant insights that could not be achieved by alternate means

Such a program would seek to bring together the right combination of remote sensing approaches to measure changes in land use/land cover, vegetation, population density and settlements.

Social science methods such as household surveys and interviews would be utilized when appropriate to corroborate, validate, or correlate with remote sensing data, so-called ‘ground-truthing,’ yielding more valuable insights than either of the approaches could achieve on its own.

Potential high-impact projects identified include:

  • Measuring settlement growth and biomass usage in areas with little or no access to formal energy.
  • Tracking the impact of energy development and consumption on communities.
  • Validating data on stockpiles of coal in China and India, where reliable data are difficult to acquire.

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