MIT Technology and Policy Program
Kailin Graham SM '24

Bringing data to policy to support communities during the energy transition
July 8, 2024

Passionate about realizing sustainable solutions to energy challenges through effective energy policy, Kailin Graham SM ’24 graduated from MIT with a master’s from TPP and EECS. He currently works at The Brattle Group as an Energy Research Associate.

You were one of two TPPers who won the Best Thesis Prize. What was the focus of your TPP thesis research? What sort of knowledge and disciplines did it bring together? How can it make an impact?

My research helped identify communities in the US whose jobs are most likely to be impacted by the energy transition away from fossil fuels, with the goal of helping policymakers direct “just transition” policy support to the people most at risk. My analysis calculated a measure of employment vulnerability for almost every job in the US economy (an “employment carbon footprint”), and analyzed how these footprints are distributed by geography, demographics and socioeconomic status.

This work brought together political science, economics and data science, and one of its more influential contributions was highlighting the shortfalls of current federal just transition policy, which demonstrably leaves behind many at-risk communities. This research highlights the importance of effective, data-driven targeting for distributional policies, and I hope it will result in amendments to federal policy that ensure US workers are appropriately supported as the economy decarbonizes.

Why did you choose to come to TPP?

As an engineering undergraduate in Australia, I wanted my career to address climate change through advancing sustainable energy, but I struggled to see pathways towards doing this. I felt that some of the biggest barriers to the energy transition were the political, social and institutional ones, rather than the technical ones we hear so much about. I realized there was a need for people who were interdisciplinary and could bring together the technical and non-technical dimensions to the climate change challenge. TPP was the perfect program to develop into this interdisciplinary professional, and I truly believe it trains you to become an extremely valuable and critical thinker in whatever field you specialize in.

What are you doing next? How did TPP help shape your future plans?

I’m currently working at the Brattle Group in their electricity practice, where I’m further deepening my understanding of power system regulatory and policy issues and working on emerging challenges in the energy transition such as electrification, the decentralization of the energy system, and the design of electricity rates. TPP shaped these plans in a big way, both through the network I was exposed to through the program and through the perspective it gave me on where I want to make an impact in my career.

What was your favorite thing about being a part of the TPP, MIT, or Boston/Cambridge communities?

Being at MIT was an incredible academic opportunity and TPP was exactly the program I had been looking for. But beyond the academics, the people I met through TPP will be what I am most grateful for in years to come. The program brings together such a unique blend of passionate, driven people who are all motivated to have a positive impact, and I have learnt as much from them as I have from my coursework – while making lifelong friends in the process.

MIT Technology and Policy Program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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