On April 22, 2022, the DIALOGUES’ partner University of Geneva, represented the project with a paper submitted to the Annual Conference of the British Sociology Association: Building Equality and Justice Now, which took place online.
The paper addressed the topic “What Social Justice in an Energy Transition? The Case of Initiatives Aimed at Households in Geneva, Switzerland”, authors Garance Clement, Marlyne Sahakian, Sharayu Shejale, Mallory Zhan (Geneva University).
Citizens’ active participation in the transition towards a low carbon energy system is one of the central goals of the European Energy Union strategy. Operationalising participation however remains a challenge for national, regional and local energy actors, who often try to “define a priori what it means to participate in transitions” (Chilvers et Longhurst 2016, 589). This can lead to narrow conceptions of energy justice, mostly focused on distributional and procedural dimensions and failing to address the structural obstacles to a more democratic system (Levenda, Behrsin, et Disano 2021).
Feminist scholars in particular insist on the fact that fostering women’s participation in the energy transition is not sufficient to tackle unjust energy cultures and practices, embedded in power dynamics that go beyond gender inequalities (Bell, Daggett, et Labuski 2020).
This paper intends to investigate how actors involved in actively supporting an energy transition (‘energy experts’) acknowledge and navigate through the potential contradictions between the short-term participative goals included in energy policies, and the alternative energy futures promoted by feminists.
It relies on two sets of empirical material collected in Switzerland, with a focus on the Geneva region. The analysis draws on semi-structured interviews conducted with various “energy experts” (members of the public and private sector, utility companies, as well as community associations and NGOs, n=12), and a database on energy regional and local initiatives (including 11 projects in Geneva), both investigating how gender and other social justice issues have been included in project design and implementation