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What is "Just Transition"?

Assessing vulnerability from coal dependence and need for a just transition

This paper identifies the linkages that surround the Indian coal economy as well as the possible economic, societal, and cultural repercussions of a coal phaseout in the major coal mining states.


This paper—the first of a two-part release from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)—lays out the socioeconomic and environmental contexts of the coal economy in India. The authors highlight the detrimental impacts that the phaseout is likely to have on: the livelihoods and social surplus across coal-dependent states; the coal royalties that make up a significant portion of the no-tax revenue for a state; the stoppage of social empowerment initiatives and infrastructural losses; along with the unintended losses of the financial and social structures functioning within the gray market of the coal mining industry.

The authors also draw out the disproportionate impact on women and the vulnerable within these communities expected from the phaseout. The authors contend that in a mixed economy like India, a just transition takes utmost precedence, because it not only aims to formalize the deeply informal coal sector, but also seeks to achieve the critical characteristics needed to fulfill the notion of an “energy democracy”. The paper also discusses how the existing regulatory framework cannot comprehensively handle the complex interlinkages that exist within the subsector of the informal mining segment, part of which is both licensed and illegal and part of which is artisanal in nature.

Power to the People: Toward Democratic Control of Electricity Generation

This report offers a trade union perspective on the need to increase public ownership of energy assets and production in the United States by expanding the role of energy cooperatives, reforming utilities, and establishing a Renewable Energy Administration.


These four short papers seek to define “energy democracy,” a term used by labor unions to characterize greater public ownership of energy assets and production. The authors address various potential dimensions of energy democracy: increased public ownership of energy assets, a larger role for energy cooperatives, reform of utilities, and the creation of a new Renewable Energy Administration.

The authors argue that market forces and cost competitiveness alone will not be sufficient to advance a shift to renewable energy. They contend that unions and social movements will have to spearhead the required “non-market, needs-based approaches.” The report explores the role of energy cooperatives, including the structure and financing options for such groups. They cite successful case studies, including the Volkswagen Staff Association for Regenerative Energy in Germany. However, they note that a shift from centralized utilities to cooperatively owned energy could pose certain challenges for labor unions, such as undermining fair wages by relying more heavily on volunteer labor.

The third section focuses on “re-municipalization” as a means to increase renewable energy growth and counter resistance from utilities. The final paper outlines the role for unions in supporting a “public goods” approach to clean energy and argues that lessons learned from the New Deal should be applied in creating a new Renewable Energy Administration.