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

February 27, 2023
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Associated Projects:

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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