This paper explores different theories of power to determine if, how, and where local power relations are disrupted or stabilized when renewable energy systems and their related institutional arrangements are introduced in rural communities.
Inequality and/or poverty > Gender inequality
Social and/or cultural impacts > Other
power dynamics decentralized electrification
(de)stabilization of social hierarchies
Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Academic/research institution or journal
The author develops a conceptualization of power to examine if, how, and where power relations—specifically those related to gender and class—are disrupted or stabilized when renewable energy systems and their new institutional arrangements are introduced in rural communities. The author then seeks to determine the overall impact of these disruptions or stabilizations on social equality.
Based on the empirical study of a small-scale hydropower project implemented by an international development organization in Mawengi, Tanzania, the author theorizes how electrification processes and power relations are mutually constituted. This paper illustrates seven steps in the process of rural electrification and their effects on local society, revealing a range of interfaces, interactions, and feedbacks that have material and social effects. Using extensive interview data, the author examines the steps of the Mawengi hydropower project, with the goal of understanding: (1) the relationship between actors involved and how they exercised power in the process, (2) the role of non-human agents, and (3) sources of stabilization and destabilization of social hierarchies.
The author found that the introduction of electricity services resulted in growing social inequality in parallel with enhanced social mobility at an individual level. The author discusses how purposeful acts to limit the influence of local elites in the electrification process destabilized the community further even as electricity consumers and utility members became more important social actors. The author suggests these new actors can use their position to promote or prevent local socioeconomic inclusion in future utility projects.
Report/Definitions and Concepts; Policy Tools or Evaluations
This report suggests eight principles for measuring justice dimensions of energy transition processes in developing countries and applies this rubric to twelve countries in the Global South.
Global, China, Costa Rica, Fiji, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Philippines, Tanzania, Vietnam
Economic diversification/restructuring > Economic development plans
Employment > Job creation and/or equality, Skills, Social protections
Environment and/or pollution > Nature
Government intervention > Carbon pricing, Regulation
Inequality and/or poverty > Gender inequality, Other
Investment > Competitiveness
Social and/or cultural impacts > Other
justice to nature
common but differentiated responsibilities
Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)
Thomas Hirsch, Manuela Matthess, Joachim Fünfgelt
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World)
Non-profit organization/civil society organization
This report discusses the various stakeholder narratives of “just energy transitions” and their claims to justice. The authors promote transformative alliances among these stakeholders to align their sustainable development strategies. They offer a set of eight principles to encourage and assess justice dimensions of energy transition processes in developing countries.
Using the proposed principles and their respective indicators, the authors evaluate twelve countries: China, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Vietnam, Fiji, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Mexico. These countries were identified based on justice terminology within their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Performance among these countries was generally strongest in terms of their ambitious targets regarding climate and the alignment of their NDCs with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These countries generally scored lower with respect to the socioeconomic dimension—such as ensuring or fostering “decent work and resilience,” “social equity,” and “gender equality”—and even lower in regard to the political dimension.
The paper concludes that countries claiming to be pioneers of just energy transitions do not necessarily perform better in terms of the social and political dimension, nor do those who claim to be pioneers regarding justice necessarily lead when it comes to climate ambition. The authors offer recommendations specific to each of the twelve countries and conclude with broadly applicable policy recommendations to better apply justice to energy transitions.