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Uneven geographies of low-carbon transition: exploring energy vulnerabilities in peripheral communities

O'Sullivan, Kate 2019. Uneven geographies of low-carbon transition: exploring energy vulnerabilities in peripheral communities. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The ongoing transition of the energy system are altering the way energy is produced, distributed and consumed. It has the promise of increased energy democracy and more distributed decentralised developments and benefits. Yet, not everyone or every place has equal access to these transition opportunities. Access to energy is already precarious for some households leading to what is conceptualised in literature as energy vulnerabilities and energy injustice. However, little explored remains how the nature of place – in its interplays with social, economic and political factors – impacts upon energy vulnerabilities and energy transition. This thesis fills this gap by exploring energy transition experiences in sub-regional peripheries of South Wales, illuminating the interplay between vulnerability, peripherality and transition. It does so by adopting an energy justice and spatial justice framework, a qualitative case study methodology and mixed research methods including interviews, personal observations, document and secondary data analysis. The research demonstrates how drivers of energy vulnerabilities (such as difficulty in affording and accessing energy) are place-specific and defined by factors associated with peripheralization: lack of agglomerative advantage, political peripheralization, sparse and shrinking population, poor energy infrastructure, high energy costs, high costs of living, dependence on external investment, limited employment opportunities and low incomes. Peripheralization is a self-reinforcing circular process, driven by disadvantageous political, symbolic, economic processes manifest spatially. The mutually reinforcing circles of peripheralization and energy vulnerabilities limit economic, political and social capacity to transition and restrain transition benefits. Research findings overall elucidate the production of spatially contingent energy vulnerabilities, thus also making contribution to the advancement of energy vulnerability and transition literature. It is also shown that geographic processes influence transition mode, trajectory and outcomes. Policy implications are identified, including the importance of recognising that energy vulnerability is influenced by place-specific factors currently unaccounted for in fuel poverty policy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Spatial justice; Energy justice; Energy deprivation; Fuel poverty; Energy vulnerabilities; Energy transition; Uneven development; Core and periphery; Wales; the United Kingdom
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 May 2020
Last Modified: 05 May 2020 10:57

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