Towards a multi-scalar and multi-horizon framework of energy injustice

A whole systems analysis of Estonian energy transition | Political Geography


The shift from carbon-intensive to low-carbon energy systems has profound justice implications as some regions are likely to lose as much as gain from decarbonization processes. Increasing calls have been made to adopt a ‘whole systems’ perspective on energy justice. Drawing on the Multi-level Perspective on socio-technical transitions this paper presents a new comprehensive framework of energy justice in system innovation, proposing to map injustices along three dimensions: 1) multiple spatial scales (regional, national, international); 2) different time horizons (currently experienced vs. anticipated injustices); 3) connections to transition dynamics (injustices related to the optimization of the currently dominant system, destabilization of the incumbent system or the acceleration of alternative solutions in niches). The framework is applied to analyse the ongoing energy transition in Estonia, involving interactions between the incumbent oil shale based regime and wind, solar, nuclear and bioenergy as emerging niche challengers. The content analysis of news items in Estonian media reveals an inventory of 214 distinct incidents of energy injustices across 21 different categories. We find that many experienced and anticipated injustices are deployed, often strategically, by certain actors to advocate specific energy futures and to influence current political choices. From the justice perspective our analysis thus raises a question whether it is ethical to use probable yet currently unrealized injustices related to regime destabilization and niche acceleration as a means to perpetuate injustices related to the optimization of the currently dominant regime


  • Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex Business School, United Kingdom

  • Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu, Estonia

  • Center for Energy Technologies, Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark