Taking Stock of “Just” Energy Transitions

Taking Stock of “Just” Energy Transitions: A critical review of empirical research and an agenda for evaluating the “justness” of California’s energy transition

At the 2021 Conference for the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS), our research team presented findings from a literature review of recent studies that explored recent energy transitions, which is most simply defined as shifting from one energy source to another and associated issues of "justice," which is the consideration of how the costs and benefits of energy systems are and should be distributed across populations and who should be included in decision-making.


Increasing resource scarcity alongside population growth and ever-growing demand for cheap energy creates important challenges for climate change mitigation. Energy justice—the consideration of how impacts from energy systems and decisions are distributed across populations—is increasingly viewed as a critical component of decarbonization policies and plans to ensure that low-income and minority communities are neither disproportionately harmed by clean energy projects nor excluded from related discussions. However, much of the literature on just transitions and energy justice are primarily conceptual and theoretical, drawing from diverse fields such as environmental ethics, law, and policy to inform decarbonization strategies. Empirical research in just transitions has received much less attention thus far in the literature. In this presentation, we will present the current state of empirical research on just transitions and energy justice in the U.S. and discuss key gaps and future research needs. Finally, we will present a brief research agenda for empirically evaluating the “justness” of California’s energy transition in the wake of its 100% clean energy goal as stated in SB 100, California’s updated Renewable Portfolio Standard. 

Students Involved

  • Callie Roach (Johnston, Class of '21) 
  • Collin Tarr (Music Composition, class of '21) 
  • Isabella Daniel (Environmental Science, class of '22)b 
  • Victoria Christopher (Public Policy and Business, class of '23)