Behavioral Science for Clean Energy Technologies

NREL behavioral and social science research helps smooth transitions to clean energy technologies and innovation by studying how people live and work.

Advanced energy technologies and informed policies are necessary but not sufficient to accelerate the energy transition at the speed required to meet our shared climate and energy resilience goals. To fully understand and implement integrated energy systems, we need to be able to model and analyze the complete system-of-systems, including the behavior of people interacting with and impacted by energy systems.

Enabling People To Embrace Clean Energy

NREL R&D teams consider not only the constraints of technology designs, the built environment, and the economy but also how societal, cultural, and even emotional factors influence decisions to embrace or reject clean energy technologies. Exploring this complex array of human and scientific considerations at the outset of projects helps set research and development priorities that will best meet the needs of each community.

Our work seeks to understand how human behavior and decisions affect the performance of energy systems and how the performance of these systems affects human well-being, with a focus on energy justice.

Person tending field of crops in front of solar panels

Farmer Brittany Stale of Sprout City Farms, and farm manager at Jack’s Solar Garden, picks tomatoes. Jack’s Solar Garden is the largest agrivoltaic research project in the United States. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL

Four people stand in desert near wind turbines.

NREL engineers talk during a tour of the Pine Tree Wind and Solar Farm. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

One circle labeled Energy Systems and Services feeds into another circle labeled Human and Societal Well-being to illustrate the human dimensions of energy systems.

Communities Local Energy Action Program Pilot

The U.S. Department of Energy's Communities Local Energy Action Program Pilot facilitates sustained communitywide economic and environmental benefits primarily through clean energy deployment. This opportunity is open to low-income, energy-burdened communities that are experiencing either direct environmental justice impacts or direct economic impacts as a result of the shift away from fossil fuels. Under this program, the department will provide support services valued at up to $16 million for community-driven clean energy transitions.

Addressing Diverse Clean Energy Needs

Two people examining map of United States on giant display monitor.
John Red Cloud (left) points out Pine Ridge on an energy grid model. Photo by Bryan Bechtold, NREL

A widespread transition to sustainable energy systems will require identifying and addressing diverse needs, barriers, and concerns found in urban, suburban, exurban, and rural communities. NREL’s social scientists are working to do just that, finding the place-based, user-centric strategies and investments necessary to foster true energy equity. Learn how our mobility equity research spans the diverse needs of underserved communities.

Our behavioral and social science teams are engaging with people, organizations, and academia in cities, towns, and more remote locations, empowering them to develop clean energy solutions that offer tangible health and quality-of-life benefits specific to their communities.

Human Dimensions of Energy Systems Report Cover

Basic Research Needs To Understand the Human Dimensions of Energy Systems

Find out more about research questions and next steps in a report of the Human Dimensions of Energy Systems workshop.

Modeling Tools

Distributed Generation Market Demand Model

Transportation Energy and Mobility Pathway Options Model

Biomass Scenario Model (OpenEI)



Nicole Rosner

Behavioral and Social Sciences Lead

Adam Warren

Director, Accelerated Deployment and Decision Support Center