Sustainable Energy Transition, Gender and Modernisation in Rural Sarawak


Shabdin, N. H., and R. Padfield. 2017. “Sustainable Energy Transition, Gender and Modernisation in Rural Sarawak.” Chemical Engineering Transactions 56: 259-64.

Authors: N. H. Shabdin , R. Padfield


In the past two decades policy-makers have highlighted the need for societies to use energy in a more sustainable way. In support of a general trend towards evidence based, policy-making academic research in sustainable energy related fields has gathered pace. In particular, research has concentrated largely on technologies, energy economics and broad concepts of smart energy system. Research focusing on the social sciences of sustainable energy, including topics such as human behaviour change, gender impacts, household scale studies etc. – have tended to receive limited attention from research sponsors and until recently assumed to have limited impact on a transition to a sustainable energy future. Yet recent research in these topics has shown to have great potential in achieving positive social and environmental impact. In line with increasing interest in the social science of sustainable energy transitions, this study examines social behaviour and energy practices of rural communities without access to twenty-four hour electricity in Sarawak, East Malaysia. The research aims to understand the impact of modernity in influencing rural communities’ energy transition with a particular focus on the role women play in energy behaviour at the household level. Five case studies was undertaken in the villages of Kampung Sibu Laut, Mersan, Telaga Air, Boyan and Gersik. Through purposive sampling 25 households in total were selected from these five villages. Consistent with triangulation methodological approaches the fieldwork involved a number of research methods such as a household energy survey, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and ethnographic style methods (i.e. participant observation). Investigating multiple data sources allows a deeper understanding and increased reliability of findings. Initial findings reveals women across the village play a key role in managing the household’s energy needs, and specifically, energy efficiency and energy conservation aspects. Household income also influenced the behaviour of householders with regards to energy saving. For instance, wealthier families owned more electric goods and gadgets as compared with poorer families; thus, energy demand is assumed higher in the former households. Meanwhile, villages without twenty-four hour access to affordable electricity have less energy demand while it is also noted that many of the younger generation have migrated to the town. The research also reveals that besides geographical challenges in rural Sarawak, villages close to protected ecosystems, such as Ramsar sites, have limited development. In this way, electrical appliances were far fewer as compared with villages where there is more consistent electricity supply.

Topics: Environment, Gender, Women, Households, Infrastructure, Energy Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Malaysia

Year: 2017

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at