Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Assessing the energy justice implications of bioenergy development in Nepal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Caroline Damgaard, Darren McCauley, Jed Long

School/Research organisations


Background:  The emerging concept of energy justice has focused on the justice implications of conventional energy systems (oil, gas, coal, etc.). Instead, we focus on the meaning of energy justice in the context of unconventional energy systems, by investigating small-scale bioenergy development in Nepal. We approach energy justice as a conceptual framework that focuses on social justice implications of energy systems, with an emphasis on burden/benefit distributions and procedural or post-distributive justice, and consider its applicability beyond conventional energy systems.

Methods:  Research was carried out in two parallel phases: (1) a quantitative phase, based on spatial analysis of secondary data, explores bioenergy distribution in Nepal, in relation to social-demographic characteristics, to investigate processes of distributive justice, and (2) a qualitative phase, based on thematic analysis of primary interview data, looks at post-distributive aspects of the energy reality in Nepal, to critically discuss the meaning of energy justice in this context.

Results:  1) Biogas development is unevenly distributed, following patterns of social connectedness, which suggests significant spatial variation in capabilities or capability deprivations regarding individual agency in relation to (bio)energy.
2) There is a surprising inconsistency in the relationship between socially marginalised populations and attainment of biogas across the country, which needs further research.
3) Individual agency, supported or facilitated by enabling actors—particularly local biogas companies—is a key characteristic of local biogas development.
4) Decentralised, small-scale energy development gives rise to power dynamics differing fundamentally from those of conventional centralised energy systems, through radically different processes of procedural justice.

Conclusions: Processes of energy justice are shown to exhibit strong spatial variability and are associated with social connectedness. Analysis focusing on processes of agency and empowerment leads to the conclusion that energy justice, to encourage unconventional energy development, should emphasise the necessary interconnection of individual rights, empowerment and responsibility.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalEnergy, Sustainability and Society
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2017

    Research areas

  • Energy justice, Unconventional energy, Distributive justice, Post-distributive justice, Nepal, Bioenergy

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Response to “Monyei, Jenkins, Serestina and Adewumi examining energy sufficiency and energy mobility in the global south through the energy justice framework”

    Todd, I., De Groot, J., Mose, T., McCauley, D. & Heffron, R. J., Sep 2019, In : Energy Policy. 132, p. 44-46 3 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

  2. Potential path volume (PPV): a geometric estimator for space use in 3D

    Demšar, U. & Long, J. A., 29 Apr 2019, In : Movement Ecology. 7, 14 p., 14.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Energy justice in the transition to low carbon energy systems: exploring key themes in interdisciplinary research

    McCauley, D. A., Ramasar, V., Heffron, R., Sovacool, B., Mebratu, D. & Mundaca, L., 1 Jan 2019, In : Applied Energy. 233-234, p. 916-921 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Balancing the energy trilemma through the Energy Justice Metric

    Heffron, R., McCauley, D. & Zarazua de Rubens, G., 1 Nov 2018, In : Applied Energy. 229, p. 1191-1201 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. The emergence of the ‘social licence to operate’ in the extractive industries?

    Heffron, R., Downes, L., Ramirez Rodriguez, O. M. & McCauley, D., 24 Oct 2018, In : Resources Policy. 59

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 249267468