Gender just energy policy: engendering the energy transition in Europe

Mariëlle Henriëtte Feenstra

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Gender equality and social justice receive limited but growing attention in energy research and energy policy. Differences between women and men in their access to and use of energy services constitute the core of gender-energy nexus research. Within households, access to energy services, which implications for meeting needs and interests, are differentiated between women and men leading to injustices. Differences also occur between households, often mediated beyond income levels, by social characteristics, such as age, civil status and ethnicity. In the search for a just energy transition, the question of gender equality emerges about how to design an energy policy that reflects the rights and needs of all energy users.

Gender-energy nexus research is rooted in development studies, with empirical data that comes mainly from the Global South. More recently there has been a growing interest in the gender-energy nexus in the Global North which has focused on the issue of energy poverty. Energy poverty is conceptualised as insufficient energy to guarantee a decent standard of living and health through a lack of appliances that provide services such as adequate warmth, cooling, lighting and telecommunications. Research shows that in Europe energy poverty has a gender face, meaning that more women than men are struggling to afford the energy services which they need. Despite the growing attention to injustices and inequalities of the energy transition, and the recognition of the gender dimension, limited conceptual frameworks and empirical evidence exist on the analysis of macro-level energy policy through a gender lens.

This PhD thesis aims to bridge the scientific and policy knowledge gap in what constitutes a gender just energy policy by developing and applying a conceptual framework that integrates energy justice and gender approaches in energy policy. The search for a just energy policy is a central theme within energy justice, which is used as a concept, an analytical and a decision-making framework. However, the gender-energy nexus and the energy justice discourses have evolved in parallel. The energy policy literature pays little attention to gender equality, which contradicts with the interdependency of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and misses the benefits that gender analysis can bring. Gender analysis provides insights into the heterogeneity of social inequalities and the intersectionality of the energy users as well as creating spaces for women’s voices to be heard.

This thesis advances the understanding of the gender dimensions of energy policy through developing and applying a conceptual framework that juxtaposes the three tenets of energy justice and the three engendering policy approaches. The framework is operationalised by defining seven elements and twelve criteria, which are applied to analyse the national energy transition policies in Europe. The conceptual framework is operationalised with seven elements: energy users, energy poverty, energy consumption, energy production, energy governance, energy participation and energy rights. Further, the gender just energy policy framework reflects the multi-layer, multi-disciplinary and multi-actor complexity of energy transitions. By analysing the actors and policy interventions of the energy transition, the inherent injustices and inequalities are revealed. This analytical function of the framework deepens the insights on how to engender the energy transition by defining and applying the criteria that contribute to a gender just energy policy.

The results of the analysis confirm that the gender just energy policy framework is applicable to compare choices in energy transition policy. Through in-depth case studies, the thesis further demonstrates the manifestation of gender inequalities and energy injustices under different political, historical and socio-cultural contexts of European countries. It investigates the recognition of women’s needs and rights within energy policy and identifies policy interventions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Clancy, Joy Sheila, Supervisor
  • Heldeweg, Michiel A., Supervisor
  • Özerol, Gül, Co-Supervisor
Award date9 Jul 2021
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-5196-0
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2021


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