PublicationJournal Article Enabling and centering equity and justice in clean energy transition research

February 27, 2023
Publication Type:
Journal Article

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.

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