This paper contributes to emerging local perspectives on energy justice. Examining the critical influence of intermediary organisations, we draw on the nascent concept of a ‘civic energy sector’ to frame ‘local’ engagement in low-carbon energy systems. Applying the three core tenets of energy justice - distributional, procedural and recognition justice - to organisations in the UK city of Bristol's growing civic energy sector, we demonstrate the explanatory power and real-world applicability of energy justice at the local level. The paper draws on a set of rich qualitative data collected over 18 months during 2015–2017, using methods from the Participatory Action Research methodology. This includes both in-depth interviews (n = 12) and a focus group (n = 7) with key civic energy actors in Bristol, alongside embedded activist researcher approaches and document analysis of important outputs and publications from civic energy actors. Using the three tenets, the paper shows how intermediaries act as a critical bridge between local low-carbon energy initiatives and deprived communities; raise awareness of funding opportunities to otherwise excluded community groups, and, where possible, seek to localise the emerging economic benefits of low-carbon transitions. The paper finishes with a call for energy justice researchers to collaborate more closely with organisations facilitating local low-carbon transitions, alongside suggesting efforts are needed to push for a commonly understood framework of energy justice within civic energy networks. It also offers critical reflections on the dominant theoretical framing of energy justice and the limitations of intermediaries under austerity, while providing policy-relevant recommendations to facilitate energy justice.
- Civic energy sector
- Energy justice
- Participatory Action Research
- Transition Pathways