A fairway to fairness: Toward a richer conceptualization of fairness perceptions for just energy transitions rights and content
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  • Energy social science has focused on distributive and procedural justice measures.

  • Fairness perceptions measures should probe underlying values and motivations.

  • Studies on the scope of justice can help specify recognitive justice measures.

  • Interactional justice could be considered an additional tenet of energy justice.

  • Interdependent decision-experiments provide robust insight in fairness perceptions.


Current energy justice literature has developed a strong empirical approach to describe how justice plays a role in energy transitions. We argue that the individual-level perception measures are insufficiently developed within this field, while they are vital for a successful just energy transition. Reviewing studies on how people (citizens, users or consumers) perceive fairness in the context of the energy transition, we first investigate how fairness perceptions are currently studied within energy social science. Subsequently, we look into social and environmental justice research and interdependent decision-experiments, to map potential extensions of fairness conceptualizations and measures. Following the triumvirate model of energy justice – distinguishing distributive, procedural, and recognitive justice – we found that only recently studies also contained recognition justice aspects, while the majority of energy social science studies focuses on either distributive or procedural aspects. Extending these insights, we argue that environmental justice research provides a potential way of specifying groups to be recognized in the energy transition (i.e., future generations, non-human species, humans worldwide). Moreover, we propose that interactional justice could be an additional tenet of citizen's fairness perceptions to consider. Importantly, for a successful global energy transition, in-depth insight into the principles underlying people's justice judgments is necessary. Social justice theorizing and interdependent decision-experiments offer concrete ways of tapping into these principles. Interdependent decision-experiments in particular pose a way of measuring fairness tendencies that could be applied to the specific context of the energy transition and be expanded beyond the current research focus measuring distributive justice perceptions.


Fairness perceptions
Distributive fairness
Procedural fairness
Recognitive fairness
Environmental justice
Behavioral game theory

Data availability

No data was used for the research described in the article.

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