Energy Justice and Smart Grid Systems: Evidence from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom

Christine Milchram*, Rafaela Hillerbrand, Geerten van de Kaa, Neelke Doorn, Rolf Künneke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)
155 Downloads (Pure)


Smart grid systems are considered as key enablers in the transition to more sustainable energy systems. However, debates reflect concerns that they affect social and moral values such as privacy and justice. The energy justice framework has been proposed as a lens to evaluate social and moral aspects of changes in energy systems. This paper seeks to investigate this proposition for smart grid systems by exploring the public debates in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Findings show that smart grids have the potential to effectively address justice issues, for example by facilitating small-scale electricity generation and transparent and reliable billing. It is a matter of debate, however, whether current smart grid designs contribute to cost and energy savings, advance a more equitable and democratic energy system, or reinforce distributive and procedural injustices. The increased use of information and communication technology raises value conflicts on privacy and cyber security, which are related to energy justice. This research contributes by conceptualizing energy justice in the context of smart grids for the first time. The energy justice framework is broadened by including values and value conflicts that pertain directly to the increased use of information and communication technology. For policy makers and designers of smart grids, the paper provides guidance for considering interconnected social and moral values in the design of policies and smart grid technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1244-1259
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Content analysis
  • Energy justice
  • Public debate
  • Smart grid systems
  • Sustainability
  • Values


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