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Journal Article

A compass to guide through the myriad of sustainable energy transition options across the global North-South divide


van Zyl-Bulitta,  Verena
IASS Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam;

Ritzel,  Christian
External Organizations;

Stafford,  William
External Organizations;

Wong,  James Gien
External Organizations;

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van Zyl-Bulitta, V., Ritzel, C., Stafford, W., Wong, J. G. (2019): A compass to guide through the myriad of sustainable energy transition options across the global North-South divide. - Energy, 181, 307-320.

Cite as: https://publications.iass-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_4522900
The global energy transition is characterised by a myriad of technology options, organisational forms and infrastructural scales across levels of operation. Energy transitions are generally considered to foster sustainable development. However, technologies deemed sustainable in some dimensions can cause environmental or social problems in other dimensions or scales. In addition, freedom and self-determination are desirable features often associated with cooperative bottom-up initiatives. However, these initiatives may not always result in appropriate processes and strategies that span ecological and socio-technical dimensions. Direct participation or better representation of stakeholders ingrained in cooperative structures do not necessarily coalesce social and environmental benefits. We distinguish between different types of participation options across economic, technical and social levels; in line with the concepts of energy citizenship and sovereignty. We also differentiate technical infrastructure dimensions from those that are more political, economic or socially determined. The main purpose of our justice-oriented assessment approach is to make explicit unintended and undesirable effects of transition processes visible, and to capture the impacts of infrastructural and organisational dimensions of energy systems. The assessment of case studies qualitatively along several dimensions (infrastructural, organisational, impact) revealed which externalities result from prosumer-based electricity systems, conventional energy utilities and other organisational systems.