Shan Zhou

Shan Zhou


Google Scholar

  • Assistant Professor, Environmental and Energy Policy
  • PhD, Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • B.S., Environmental Sciences, Beijing Normal University

Research Summary

My research focuses on the intersection of public policy, social equity, and sustainability. I study how public policy can be leveraged to improve environmental quality, to promote the use of clean technologies, and to enhance social equity. My investigation of these topics integrates clean energy technology deployment data with policy textual data, environmental quality observations, and demographic information using quantitative methods, comparative case studies, qualitative content analysis, and geospatial analysis tools.

My research has been generously supported by both internal and external sponsors (e.g., NOAA, NASA and Oak Ridge Associated Universities). I have published my work in top-tier policy and sustainability-related journals, such as Journal of Environmental Planning and ManagementEnergy PolicyJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning, Social Science Quarterly, Journal of Asian Public Policy, Journal of Cleaner Production, and Review of Policy Research. I have served on the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Conference Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Policy Abstract Review Committee since 2019, and on the journal editorial board of Review of Policy Research and Energy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning, and Policy since 2021.

Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis

As an environmental and energy policy scholar, I engage in research supporting evidence-based policy making for sustainable development. I have published several peer-reviewed articles using econometric models to quantitatively evaluate policy impact on clean energy technology deployment. In particular, I focus on how state and federal policies interact to influence smart meter adoption (Zhou & Matisoff, 2016), how policy design (i.e., policy stringency & compulsoriness of targets) of state renewable portfolio standards influences renewable energy capacity additions (Zhou & Solomon, 2020; Solomon & Zhou, 2021), and how voluntary green power market performs in conjunction with mandatory renewable portfolio standards (Zhou & Solomon, 2021).

I have been nationally recognized for the quality and promise of my research in this area. In 2020, I received the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, a highly competitive award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities. This award provided funds to examine the interrelation between voluntary environmental programs and government-led mandates (PI, $10,000: Incorporating LEED into local green building policies: the blurred boundary between voluntarism and regulation; Discipline: Policy, Management or Education).

Environmental and Energy Justice

Environmental Justice. I have published several papers investigating social equity in the distribution of environmental amenities, such as students and communities’ access to LEED certified schools (Zhao, Zhou & Noonan, 2020), and the implication of China’s household registration system (Hukou) and the resulted negative social construction of rural migrants on Chinese municipal governments’ provision of urban environmental amenities (green space and pollution treatment facilities) (Zhou & Liang, 2021). My expertise in environmental justice inspired my participation as Co-Investigator and the social science lead in a three-year NASA funded project (Co-I, $449,378: Mapping and Modeling Desertification and Its Impact on Anthropogenic Dust and Health-related External Costs in Central Asia), in which my responsibility is to assess the social inequalities in human exposure to air pollution and the resulted health outcomes in central Asia.

Energy Justice. My early research endeavors focusing on environmental justice inspired me to investigate social inequalities arising in the clean energy transition process. I have published research articles examining the access to smart metering infrastructure and smart grid subsidies by different social groups (Zhou & Noonan, 2019), and the temporal trend and magnitude of residential solar PV adoption disparities in the U.S. (Gao & Zhou, 2022). My research in this area has been funded by the Michigan Tech Research Excellence Fund (PI, $15,000: Examining the Inequalities of US Energy Policy Outcomes: The Spatial Distribution of Clean Energy Infrastructure and Environmental Benefits), and NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) Program (PI, $146,920: Design Innovative Policy Instruments to Promote Equitable and Effective Low-carbon Energy Infrastructure Investment in Rural Communities across the U.S.).

Public Policy Theories

Policy adoption and diffusion. I study mechanisms of government adoption of policies promoting clean energy and sustainable development. One publication in which I am lead author examines four driving forces of renewable energy policy adoptions by European countries, including coercion, normative emulation, competition and learning (Zhou, Matisoff, Brown & Kingsley, 2019).  I am currently working with a PhD advisee on a manuscript examining factors that influence the use of municipal green bonds by local governments in California. This work has been accepted for the 2022 Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) fall conference.

Policy design. My other emerging area of research centers the design of environmental and energy policies. I am interested in more accurate operationalization of policy design features in policy analysis, and the establishment of causal linkages between nuanced policy design features and distributional policy outcomes.

My research team has constructed a comprehensive national dataset of U.S. solar justice policies, which refer to policies and programs that promote the adoption of solar PV by broader segments of population. Leveraging this unique solar justice policy dataset and policy design literature, I conducted a comparative policy analysis using content analysis to understand the manifestation and operationalization of energy justice in three policy design elements, including macro policy goals, meso policy instruments, and micro-calibrations. This paper was presented in the 2021 APPAM fall conference, and is currently under review. Another paper published in Energy Policy combines this national solar justice policy dataset with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) Tracking the Sun data to examine the impact of solar justice policies on residential solar PV adoption inequalities in the U.S. (Gao & Zhou, 2022).

Research Interests

  • Environmental & Energy Policy
  • Smart Grids, Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency & Green Buildings
  • Sustainable Technology Adoption & Diffusion
  • Environmental and Energy Justice
  • Urban and Local Sustainability
  • Policy Processes
  • Policy Analysis