In Pursuit of Energy Justice

Here is a journal article I’ve written focused on the emerging academic area of energy justice. Energy justice stems from the environmental justice movement and has the potential to incorporate a wide variety of issues that are policy relevant in the energy sector. Energy poverty, including access to energy resources and political representation are the more common areas that have been examined to date by scholars. There is also the definition that the full costs of the energy system should be reflected in the end price. This would help expose those areas where there are subsidies. If you take just these two different perspectives, you can see that there are contradictory and also a wide area of justice questions that energy justice is engaged with.

My approach (as is the approach on this blog) is to consider the interaction of companies, government regulations and policies and how these either benefit or hurt consumers. Thus I push for full cost accounting of our energy system – and even where financial losses are being hid (such as in Hungary and Bulgaria). My presumption is that if financial losses are hidden, then the energy system itself is not built on a sustainable and stable platform that can finance and transition towards a low carbon energy system. In addition, there is an inability by market players and governments to invest in the latest technologies which can provide lower cost energy services to consumers, rather than just creating perpetual debt in the energy system.

This article (just submitted to a special issue of a journal – so it is under review), is more theoretical and even philosophical in understanding our energy system. I separate out different forms of energy justice. The first form is the ‘particular energy justice’ which is based in cultural and national norms. The second form is the ‘universal energy justice’ definition which argues everyone in the world has the right to access energy services and be able to afford them – otherwise they are denied other human rights, like a job and education. I then attach this discussion to the tumultuous experience in Bulgaria and the inability to make it financially sustainable.  You can see this differentiation in the picture below.

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Download article: In Pursuit of Energy Justice

Abstract:

Energy Justice provides a framework to perceive disparities in our energy system. The foundation of energy justice draws heavily from the environmental justice movement, grounded in larger socio-political issues of representation, economic relations between the state, firms and social groups, including a universal and local application of justice. This article extends this differentiation by exploring universal and particular forms of energy justice. 1) Universal energy justice holds to socio-historical values stemming from judicial and philosophical groundings based in procedural justice issues, including recourse through administrative or judicial means. 2) Particular energy justice relies on cultural and environmental factors influencing choices around energy technologies and policy preferences for the distribution of energy services. Empirically, this article examines tensions within the energy system in the European Union. It does this first, by examining how universal energy justice is spread through National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in energy to satisfy ‘universal energy justice’ standards. Second, particular energy justice is exemplified in Bulgaria’s use of historical socio-political relations to usurp institutionalized universal energy justice. The aim of the article is to show the pursuit of energy justice attempts to resolve tensions between groups and differing politics to both access and provide energy services.