Energy Justice / A Special Cross-Cutting Theme Report

Prof. Dr. Ramazan Sari (Co-Author) – Global Vision Board Member

Executive Summary

Energy justice seeks to embed principles of justice, fairness and social equity into energy systems and energy system transitions.

This report gives an overview of emerging research in ‘energy justice’ and explores how ideas within different Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) disciplines interact with key concepts in this rapidly expanding new field.

Focusing on three different disciplines – Economics, Business Studies, and Gender Studies – this report highlights the different ways in which an interdisciplinary approach can contribute towards mutually beneficial learning between these disciplines and energy justice research. Specifically, we explore: (1) the energy justice challenges posed by pursuing efficiency over equity in mainstream Economics; (2) the potential for businesses to be facilitators of energy justice; and (3) the importance of integrating issues of gender inequality into energy justice research. These interdisciplinary discussions are relevant for Horizon 2020, wider European Union (EU) energy policy, and SHAPE ENERGY’s objectives.

As energy systems and transitions operate at different scales, energy justice can be local, regional, national and international in both approach and application. Drawing on ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ perspectives, it is also underpinned by two frameworks: a decision-making framework, and the three core tenets of energy justice. Firstly, the decision-making framework consists of eight key principles: availability; affordability; due process; transparency and accountability; sustainability; intra-generational equity; inter-generational equity; and responsibility. According to the framework these principles should be used by decision-makers when formulating energy policy, to provide more equitable and just energy policy outputs. Secondly, the three core tenets of energy justice can be applied across energy systems and are applicable at a variety of scales. The application of these tenets aims to identify where injustice occurs within energy systems, and, how justice can be achieved:

i) procedural justice – the ability of people to be involved in decision-making procedures around energy system infrastructures and technologies;

ii) distributional justice – questions of the siting of energy infrastructure and economic issues of benefits and burdens (‘who gets what’); and

iii) recognition justice – understanding the basis for social inequalities and the acknowledgement or dismissal of marginalised and deprived communities in relation to energy systems.

Given the rise in social inequality within many EU states because of multiple converging structural, financial and economic crises, EU energy policy needs to focus more heavily on its social impacts. This focus is also needed for the diverse efforts of member states to instigate low-carbon and renewable energy transitions. Consequently, energy justice needs much greater attention so as to effectively meet many of the EU’s future energy challenges. This has serious relevance to many of Horizon 2020’s ‘Societal Challenges’, such as the ‘Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy’ theme, and can contribute to analysis of the broader social impacts of the EU ‘Energy Strategy and Energy Union’ plan.

This report thus concludes with the following recommendations: (1) funding new areas of energy justice research to sit alongside all areas of EU energy policy; (2) a cross-disciplinary energy justice framework to advance research with STEM researchers; and (3) a specific ‘Energy justice in the EU’ session at the SHAPE ENERGY Pan-European conference.

Our research priority lies in ensuring that a fair, just and equitable energy system emerges within the EU over the coming decades. As our report states, in all policy and decision making scenarios regarding energy; fairness, equity, inclusiveness and justice are increasingly sought to ensure wider social acceptance, alongside enabling more efficient implementation of new energy technologies. We feel energy justice is fundamental to the realisation of these scenarios in practice.

Note: Shape Energy Project has received funding from the European Eunion’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 731264

Author: Ramazan Sari
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