wind power in winter

Project: Energy justice for rural communities – Towards pathways to empowerment in sustainability transitions

The project aims to bring justice to the residents of rural areas in sustainable energy transitions. It seeks to provide knowledge about energy injustices by exploring how they are perceived and reproduced in rural settings.

Project information

Project manager
Solène Prince, Linnaeus University
Other project members
Marianna Strzelecka, Linnaeus University
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University
1 Jan 2024–31 Dec 2027
Tourism Studies (Department of Marketing and Tourism Studies, the School of Business and Economics)

More about the project

Our research will yield results and suggestions that can influence policies that specifically benefit people in Swedish rural areas dealing with the expansion of the renewable energy sector. The development of renewable energy facilities near rural communities is a contentious issue. Despite numerous arguments for the development of the renewable energy sector, local effects of wind power installations on land use, ecosystems, and landscape aesthetics turn transitions into a controversial societal issue concerning its power to reorganize areas and economic activity. Sweden aims to transitions to renewable energy sources, but resistance to its infrastructure jeopardizes this goal. The municipalities with the most onshore wind turbines are in the northern part of the country, where there are vast areas of uninhabited land. There, wind power is expanding to provide green and affordable energy to new industries in line with emission reduction standards. Therefore, our project focuses on municipalities in northern Sweden, where the expansion of the wind power sector and societal dissatisfaction are highly tangible.

As sustainability transitions transform rural areas into geopolitical space for future energy production and challenges rural development, there is an urgent need to identify pathways to energy justice. It is crucial that Sweden considers local politics in rural areas to meet national and global climate action goals, reduce place disparities, and promote sustainable communities. To understand how energy injustices are perceived, reproduced, and embedded in rural areas, we use "assemblage thinking." This approach helps us understand the material, symbolic, and affective aspects behind sustainable energy transitions in rural areas. We view the countryside as an assemblage of materiality, people, and narratives to understand how it is affected by external forces and reproduced in sustainable energy transition. We address knowledge gaps on energy justice by seeking ways to empower rural stakeholders to participate meaningfully in political debates on energy transitions. The results can support interest groups striving for the sustainability of rural communities, such as destinations, Sami communities, local associations, farmers, forestry groups, and nature conservation groups.

The project spans 4 years and consists of 4 phases of qualitative research on the production of spatial assemblages in sustainable energy transitions. These phases include interviews with residents supported by photographs of places, ethnographies in locations where there is resistance, and interviews with public officials involved in planning issues. Qualitative research helps us understand the complexity and nuances of human experiences shaping space. The four phases complement each other to provide an in-depth account of the stories, things, and people shaping rural environments in sustainable energy transitions. With qualitative research, we provide rural interest groups the opportunity to tell stories about place and resistance. We use participatory methods to work towards solutions for enhanced empowerment with project participants, researchers, and the public. The researchers are social scientists with experience working in rural areas undergoing societal transformation.