Connection to the Grid. Distributive Justice and 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 this example 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 contributes to this debate from a historical point of view. We provide 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 the significance of energy infrastructure that in the past led to distributional injustices but also triggered enormous exertion by official authorities. Yet another aspect will be the accessibility of consumers to energy services: the narrative on “fuel poverty” has revealed the uneven and unjust distribution regarding affordable access to energy services.

In other words, participants will examine energy both from a physical perspective, assessing costs, benefits, liabilities and loss, and a human values perspective: struggle for power, freedom of choice, access to resources, distribution of (energy) wealth.

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