Problematising energy justice: Towards conceptual and normative alignment

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Over the past decade, notions of energy justice have been subject to significant uptake within energy studies. One conception, often referred to as a “three-tenet approach”, has quickly become the predominant definition of energy justice, being cited and applied in a range of publications. Yet, dominant versions of this approach are subject to a recurring set of issues which risk concealing the meaning and use of justice in approaching the ethics of energy systems. The rapid uptake of this approach combined with its on-going integration with other framings, including the recent JUST framework, risks further entrenching these issues within a range of energy studies trajectories. Key to understanding these issues are the activist-based accounts of environmental justice that informed an earlier understanding of justice as distribution, recognition, and procedure. This perspective illustrates that relative to this understanding, this approach to energy justice 1) omits the explanatory interconnections between these three dimensions and 2) conceals the depth and debate underpinning each separate dimension. Revealing the origins, depth, and purpose of this earlier understanding illustrates how the dominant approach to energy justice creates a normative-ethical foundation that does not always support its overarching goals nor adequately produces a conceptual space in which to understand and respond to energy related injustice. Compounding this, some advocates of these approaches often fail to incorporate the values embodied in this framework when rationalising its use. I conclude with a call to energy researchers to engage more critically with energy justice frameworks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102993
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Critique
  • Energy ethics
  • Energy justice
  • Environmental justice
  • Just transition
  • Three-tenet approach


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