Abstract for presentation at 2nd Energy & Society Conference, Krakow, 4-6 June 2014.
The pursuit of energy and carbon transitions has to grapple with understandings and discourses of ‘need’, at individual or societal scales, which may in some contexts bound or limit the possibilities of change from present conditions. Electrical power is often thought about and spoken of as a fundamental need, necessary for any ‘civilised’ and just society, for economic development and for individuals to have a minimally decent quality of life. Assumptions about levels of ‘needed’ current and future electricity demand and the associated ‘needed’ capacities of supply infrastructures can also be embedded in a variety of ways within systems of provision, institutional arrangements and regulatory provisions. In this paper we draw on an exploration and review of academic analysis and media discourse to outline a series of ways of framing the relation between need and electricity. We argue that the way in which this relation is understood has significant implications for transition objectives and processes, as well as for questions of social justice.