Connection to the Grid. Distribution justice as a reflection of energy wealth

“The supply of grid electricity, liquid fuels and renewable alternatives is notoriously poor in Nigeria. The problem is particularly acute in the Niger Delta”, as the NGO ‘Stakeholder Democracy Network’ declares. The Niger Delta is, however, also one of the world’s most productive sites of crude oil extraction. The rigs of various oil companies extract two million barrels of the liquid fossil fuel – per day.

As the example of the Niger Delta shows, geographical proximity to energy sources has only limited influence on the distribution of and access to energetic wealth. Energy both as a resource and a linked set of people, engineering and industrial practices, technological artifacts, political programs, and institutional ideologies, is of strategic importance for the global economy and hence influences issues of wealth and poverty. Resource scarcity and population growth challenge energy policies and energy security issues on a global level. As a consequence “energy justice” has emerged as a new crosscutting field in the social sciences and the humanities, yet also from an activists’ side (Jenkins et al. 2016). The energy justice discussion claims that energy is provided with a price. This raises questions of how the costs and benefits of energy production and consumption can be assessed and distributed.

The panel aims at contributing to this debate from a historical point of view. We ask for inputs in the form of historical case studies where questions of recognition of the unequal allocation of environmental benefits that led to the burden of rising energy prices are addressed, as is the question of the uneven distribution of the associated responsibilities. Another course of reasoning considers contributions to the significance of energy infrastructure that in the past led to distributional injustices. A final important question is the accessibility of consumers to energy services: the narrative on “fuel poverty” has revealed the uneven and unjust distribution of burden regarding affordable access to energy services.

In other words, participants will examine energy both from a physical perspective, heat or electricity for example, assessing costs, benefits, liabilities and loss, and a human values perspective: freedom of choice, access to energy resources, and others. Contributions to this panel are not limited geographically but will focus on the 20th century.