Department of Business Development and Technology

Energy transitions from the cradle to the grave: A meta-theoretical framework integrating responsible innovation, social practices, and energy justice

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  • Benjamin K. Sovacool
  • David J. Hess, Vanderbilt University
  • ,
  • Roberto Cantoni, University of Sussex Business School

An almost inexhaustible number of conceptual approaches has arisen in the past few decades to seek to explain the interlinked phenomena of energy transitions, low-carbon transitions, or sociotechnical change. With an eye for theoretical synthesis, this study asks: What do three particular epistemic communities—those concerning innovation, practices, and justice—say about energy transitions? What does this literature reveal about the injustices and inequalities of energy transitions? Finally, what can we learn by integrating aspects of this literature? The study answers these questions by drawing from responsible research and innovation, social practice theory, and energy justice approaches. Essentially the first is about the design of technology, the second how it is used, the third the broader societal and global implications. Taken together, the study offers an integrative framework capable of analyzing transitions from their “cradle” of design to their “life” of use to their “grave” of aftereffects. It explores the extent to which the three perspectives can be integrated into a meta-theoretical framework. This integrative framework is then applied to four diverse case studies: French nuclear power, Greek wind energy, Papua New Guinean solar energy, and Estonian oil shale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102027
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Climate justice, Energy justice, Environmental justice, Sociotechnical transitions, Sustainability transitions

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