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Conflicting policy goals of energy justice: Affordability or sustainability in Eastern Europe?

Authors: Michael LaBelle*, Central European University
Topics: Economic Geography, Applied Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: energy justice, nuclear, coal, energy, geopolitics, European Union, Poland, Hungary
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Building a low carbon economy is a pillar of the European Union’s 2050 climate mitigation goals. This paper compares how two EU Member States are building their energy systems to either meet or avoid this target. Hungary and Poland are used as a comparative case study to understand how the delivery of affordable energy services for households constrains or enables their attempt to build a low-carbon energy system. The three core tenets of Energy Justice revolve around sustainability, affordability and inter-generational equity. But what happens if these core tenets are viewed by policy makers as conflicting with each other? This article will address the different policy responses and how the previous fossil fuel and nuclear power technologies constrain or encourage each country to meet these targets. Each country grapples with the geopolitical implications of Soviet era energy systems and EU membership, both constraining and influencing policy choices of affordability and sustainability. A novel theoretical contribution will be made by developing the concept of radical energy justice, which goes beyond identifying injustices, and prescribing policy solutions by identifying how power relations influence policy and the choice of technologies in the energy system.

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