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Article

Energy periphery: uneven development and the precarious geographies of low-carbon transition

Energy and Buildings. 2020. Vol. 211. No. 109818. P. 1-11.
Golubchikov O., O'Sullivan K.

The paper introduces the concept of energy periphery to interrogate place-based perspectives on the co-production of uneven geographical development, energy vulnerabilities and low carbon transitions. Energy periphery is defined as places that are systematically disadvantaged through the whole energy system due to their inferior position within the asymmetrical spatial distribution of material, economic, political and symbolic resources and capabilities. Within an energy periphery, energy-related factors are combined with other place-based conditions to subject their communities to a compound and circular effect of precarious energy experiences. The notion of energy periphery is underpinned by insights from the spatial justice, core-periphery and energy justice theories. Using the case of Wales, the paper demonstrates the multi-dimensional and multi-scalar character of energy peripheralization, including political underrepresentation, the absence of economic agglomeration advantages, and dependence on off-grid fuels, energy inefficient homes and other ‘backward’ technologies and practices. Social and spatial contingencies of end-use energy vulnerability factors are outlined. Contrary to common discourses, energy transition further disadvantages energy peripheries and reproduces a fragmented socio-spatial landscape. The study overall demonstrates the importance of considering energo-socio-spatial relationships to better understand uneven energy transitions and social change more generally.