Justice, Governance and energy services, 25-26 September 2014

Access to those goods and services considered essential for a decent quality of life is widely established as a matter of justice, and also talked about through ethics, needs and rights framings. As a matter of justice there can be expectations of a certain standard of provision being enabled or protected for all, or judgements made about the pattern of distribution of access and provision across different parts of society. In this workshop, we are interested specifically in exploring how energy use and access to energy services is, and can be, positioned as a matter of justice. This positioning raises questions about the role of the state in providing and protecting access to affordable energy services, and how governance, in its broadest sense, potentially both supports and obstructs greater justice in these terms. Comparing internationally, and considering both theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence, this workshop provided opportunities for discussing the work of the DEMAND Centre, EDF R&D ECLEER, and that of other research partners in France.

Rationale and Themes

It is generally accepted that the state to some degree has a role to ensure some degree of access to some forms of energy services[1], and to some standard of quality of end use outcome – but beyond this broad principle, the precise roles and duties of the state, and the relative responsibility of other actors, is open to debate. For example, questions can be asked about which energy services are ‘essential’ enough – sufficiently vital and necessary for health, well-being and societal participation that their distribution can be positioned as a matter of justice. Most evidently, ‘fuel poverty’ policy in the UK (and elsewhere) has particularly focused on heating as the basis of determining what constitutes a necessary energy service, and policy measures and considerable amounts of public and private money has been directed towards attempting to achieve a universal basic level of energy service in the form of affordable warmth. However stepping outside of the fuel poverty framing we can ask in more fundamental terms:

  • What energy services matter and for what reasons?
  • What degree of responsibility does and should the state have?
  • What degree of access to energy services should it ensure?
  • How do past, current and potential future governance arrangements serve to support or obstruct access to energy services of different forms?

Whilst these matters can be debated in their own terms, they become particularly relevant and problematic in the context of:

  • Rising energy prices impacting on affordability for those on low incomes
  • Policies seeking to transition towards a lower carbon energy system with potential uneven consequences and implications for different parts of society
  • Social dynamics which are shifting expectations of normal and ordinary consumption
  • Political changes which have and continue to rework both the governance of energy systems and the provision of welfare support


Thursday, 25 September

9:15 Opening of the workshop: Gordon Walker, Francois Bafoil, Sylvie Douzou – Objectives and overview of the workshop, Presentation of DEMAND and CERI teams

9:45 Governance and Access to Energy Services in Europe
Chair: Gordon Walker, Lancaster University, Co-Director DEMAND Centre

10:30-10:45 Short Break

10:45-11:45 Case studies from three countries: France, Germany, Hungary

11:45-12:30 Discussion

12:30-14:00 Lunchtime

14:00-17:30 Justice and Energy Services in the UK
Chair: Sylvie Douzou, EDF R&D, DEMAND

15:05–15:20 Short Break

16:35–17:20 Discussion

Friday 26 September

9:15-11:00 Presentation of applied research results of EDF R&D on fuel poverty

11:00–11:15 Short break

12:45-13:45 Lunchtime and end of the extended workshop

This workshop took place on 25-26 September 2014 in Paris.

[1] Energy services can be taken here as those which are (currently) enabled through and dependent on the use of energy to a significant degree – for example, heating and cooling, light, mobility, cooking, refrigeration and communication technologies.

[2] PhD supported by EDF R&D

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