Energy researchers have historically studied how power systems can provide cheap, clean, and reliable energy. While these three attributes are critical for clean energy transitions, the energy justice movement supports an equally necessary focus on equity and justice. In recent years, research has sought to understand how decision-making and infrastructure design can enable fair socio-technical changes in energy systems, from production to consumption to retirement.
Stemming from the environmental justice and fuel poverty scholarship and advocacy that emerged in the 1970s in the United States and the United Kingdom, the energy justice research space has consolidated and evolved since the 2010s. Over the past decade, the energy justice literature has highlighted how the design and operation of energy systems can have unequal socio-spatial impacts and has illuminated opportunities toward more inclusive energy services.
A critical review is required to map out the obstacles and opportunities in this field at a time when a confluence of economic, social, and political trends have brought issues of equity and justice to the fore (e.g., US Executive Order 14008). In this article, we explore three challenges the energy justice field faces as it engages with research on clean energy transitions in the US: setting boundaries for its research agenda; developing generalizable metrics to assess energy justice claims; and implementing those metrics to inform policy. We identify promising developments in these areas and make suggestions for future work.