Just Energy? Designing for Ethical Acceptability in Smart Grids

C. Milchram

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

229 Downloads (Pure)


Smart grids within the transition to sustainable energy systems Smart grid systems are widely considered as crucial in the energy transition, because they allow for greater flexibility in bridging temporal gaps between electricity supply and demand in renewable energy systems. To do so, the systems make use of information and communication technologies to measure and monitor supply and demand in real-time, on the basis of which the use of renewable electricity can be optimized. Despite this important role in future renewable energy systems, the introduction of smart grids comes with serious moral repercussions, for example for data privacy and security, autonomy and control, or distributive justice. This dissertation analyzes the moral implications of smart grid systems, and provides guidance for designers and policymakers on how to address these implications in smart grid technologies and institutions, with the ultimate motive to increase the systems’ ethical acceptability. Interdisciplinary in nature, the research contributes to value-sensitive design, institutional analysis, and energy justice. It is in line with academic endeavors to enrich energy research with insights from the social sciences and humanities. It thereby adds to a literature that is dominated by technological approaches and presents smart grids as a technical ‘fix’ to make electricity systems more sustainable. The main body of this dissertation consists of four papers that, collectively, address the ethical acceptability of smart grids. It combines conceptual insights with empirical investigations. Conceptual investigations draw from ethics of technology, value-sensitive design and theories of justice used in the energy justice literature. Empirical methods involve qualitative content analysis and case study research to understand affected stakeholders’ value conceptions and perceptions of a technology...
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Kunneke, R.W., Supervisor
  • Hillerbrand, R.C., Supervisor
  • van de Kaa, G., Supervisor
  • Doorn, N., Supervisor
Award date5 Oct 2020
Print ISBNs978-94-6384-163-4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Energy systems
  • Energy transition
  • Sustainability
  • Energy policy
  • Smart grids
  • Smart energy
  • Ethical acceptability
  • Social acceptance
  • Values
  • Value-sensitive design
  • Design for values
  • Energy justice
  • Design for justice
  • Institutional analysis
  • Institutional Analysis and Development framework
  • IAD framework
  • Responsible research and innovation


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