Author

Jeff Rosen

Date of Award

5-1996

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Resource Economics and Policy

Advisor

Stewart Smith

Second Committee Member

George Criner

Third Committee Member

Alan Kezis

Abstract

The principles of sustainable development (SD) have been widely advanced and refined since it was introduced in the 1987 publication of the United Nations' World Commission on the Environment and Development (Brundtland report). Much of the literature focuses on impacts at the macro-system level. The literature also reveals, however, a common set of principles that can be the basis for an evaluation technique at the micro-level. These principles establish the minimal boundary conditions for meeting the SD criterion. This boundary structure supports a consistent analysis across local projects, while allowing customizing to alternative views of SD, and importantly, inclusion of citizen values in the appraisal process. The Sustainable Development Evaluative Technique (SDET) developed here provides a framework for consistently assessing projects against established SD parameters. As an operational tool, it transforms the broad values of SD into goals across three systems: economic, environmental and community. These broad goals are then disaggregated into more detailed indicator categories, which are further decomposed into measurable indicators. The indicators are scored within a multiple criteria decision matrix to forecast the direction and magnitude of impacts from proposed projects on SD principles. A primary objective of the SDET is to provide citizen groups with a user friendly SD project appraisal technique. This research develops a model technique and reports the results from applying the model to an electric utility decision to purchase and close a biomass generating facility, with which it has a long term power purchase agreement and which is located in an outlying area. The framework educates users through its transparency and the imposition of sustainability boundary conditions. Equally important, it allows local values to be incorporated with the more universal values of SD. Within the boundary conditions, citizen groups can choose between "weak" and "strong" sustainability and can apply value weights to the forecasted outcomes. The SDET is a pedagogical tool, designed to inform users about the complex issues inherent in considering trade-offs between current and future generations, man-made and natural capital, and local and global effects. The matrix of final effects and visual representations of the forecasted outcomes offer users a comprehensible summary of a broad array of effects. As such, it is as much an educational tool as a decision aid.

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