Toward Feminist Energy Systems: Why Adding Women and Solar Panels Is Not Enough


Bell, Shannon Elizabeth, Cara Daggett, and Christine Labuski. 2020. “Toward Feminist Energy Systems: Why Adding Women and Solar Panels Is Not Enough.” Energy Research & Social Science 68 (October): 101557.

Authors: Shannon Elizabeth Bell, Cara Daggett, Christine Labuski


Growth in renewable energy does not displace fossil fuel use on a one-to-one basis, but rather increases the total amount of energy that is produced. As numerous scholars have argued, an energy transition away from – rather than in addition to – fossil fuels will require more than technology and financial capital. Here we argue that a feminist perspective on energy provides an important framework for understanding what keeps us stuck in unsustainable energy cultures, as well as a paradigm for designing truly just energy systems. Feminist approaches have been widely taken up in environmental and ecofeminist work, as well as in climate change research. In energy studies, however, gender-related research has tended to focus more narrowly on women's issues. Although this is crucial work, the focus on women represents just one dimension of what feminism can bring to the study of energy. Feminist theory also offers expertise in the study of power more broadly, which is widely applicable to the full spectrum of energy research. This article outlines a feminist energy research agenda that addresses many aspects of energy system design, planning, exchange, and use. We analyze energy along four intersecting coordinates: the political (democratic, decentralized and pluralist); economic (prioritizing human well-being and biodiversity over profit and unlimited growth); socio-ecological (preferring relationality over individualism); and technological (privileging distributed and decentralized fuel power and people power). In doing so, we show that feminism is well-suited for navigating the tangled web of power, profit, and technological innovation that comprises human fuel use.

Keywords: ecofeminism, just transition, energy democracy, fossil fuels, feminist energy, degrowth

Topics: Economies, Environment, Climate Change, Feminisms, Ecofeminism, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Infrastructure, Energy

Year: 2020

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