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Climate Week NYC: Erin Brousseau (MARS-REERS ’20) on Her Work in Energy Resilience
September 23, 2021

Can you tell us, briefly, about what you do?

I work for an energy resilience consulting startup. We work with clients across the public and private sectors to increase their energy resilience, which basically involves ensuring that communities maintain a reliable supply of energy when the surrounding power system is stressed, such as by a natural disaster, cyberattack, or equipment failure.

How did your time studying the region inform your work in the energy sphere? 

My thesis and field research at the Harriman Institute were instrumental in my joining this company! Through a PepsiCo travel grant, I went to Tbilisi in 2019 to study the security of the Georgian power system. That research directly influenced how I described my interest in the energy sector during interviews both with this company and my previous employer. I’ve also presented to my colleagues several times on that research and other regional topics. I do think it’s helpful to be able to bring a geopolitical perspective to a space that is currently domestically-focused, but has broader implications in the future.

What advice do you have for current students of regional studies considering working on climate-related issues?

First of all, all work on climate-related issues is needed right now, so I would say if you are considering it, go for it! On a practical note, I’ve learned that it’s important to talk about your work in regional studies in a way that is translatable for climate-focused employers. While we understand the value of regional work, it’s not always evident to people in other sectors, so you should be purposeful in how you tell your story. A first step could be to connect the dots for yourself between what you’re currently working on and what appeals to you in climate work, before then crafting a narrative with your target audience in mind.

Which climate issue is most important to you?

With my current work, I have to say that energy resilience is currently at the top of the list! I think it is critical that as we rebuild our energy systems to be more renewables-based, we also create systems that will endure future changes and hazards in our environment. From an economic efficiency standpoint, the value of doing so seems intuitive, but it is actually really difficult to quantify, which poses a huge challenge to effecting change in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, systems lacking resilience tend to affect low-income communities more severely than privileged populations, so there are equity and justice issues tied up in energy resilience work as well. But besides resilience, close to my heart is the challenge of building international partnerships around climate goals.