The whole systems energy injustice of four European low-carbon transitions

The need for multi-scalar analysis of energy and low-carbon systems is becoming more apparent as a way to assess the holistic socioeconomic and environmental impacts of energy transitions across a variety of scales and lifecycle stages. This paper conducts a whole systems energy justice analysis of four European low-carbon transitions—nuclear power in France, smart meters in Great Britain, electric vehicles in Norway, and solar photovoltaic panels in Germany. It asks: in what ways may each of these transitions result in injustices that extend beyond communities and countries, i.e., across the whole system? It utilizes a mixed-methods research design based on 64 semi-structured research interviews with experts across all four transitions, five public focus groups, and the collection of 58 comments from twelve public internet forums to answer this question. Drawing inductively from these data, the paper identifies and analyzes 44 injustices spread across three spatial scales. Micro scale injustices concern immediate local impacts on family livelihood, community health and the environment. Meso scale injustices include national-scale issues such as rising prices for electricity and gas or unequal access to low-carbon technology. Macro scale injustices include global issues such as the extraction of minerals and metals and the circulation of waste flows. The paper then discusses these collective injustices in terms of their spatiality and temporality, before offering conclusions for energy and climate research and policy.

Written by Benjamin K. Sovacool, Andrew Hook, Mari Martiskainen and Lucy Baker

Read the full article online