Social conditions to better realize the environmental gains of alternative energy: Degrowth and collective ownership

Ryan Gunderson, Diana Stuart, Brian Petersen, Sun Jin Yun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Alternative energy development is a commonly proposed technological means to reduce environmental pressure. Yet there is an unintended and paradoxical “energy boomerang effect,” or, when decarbonizing the energy supply increases total energy use. This paradoxical outcome presupposes a particular set of social-structural conditions: the imperative to utilize energy to increase economic growth (and, thus, energy throughput) and the use of energy production itself as a capital accumulation strategy. The energy boomerang effect is likely not an outcome of alternative energy development per se, but only of alternative energy development in a particular kind of society. Economic degrowth through the collective ownership of energy systems would provide conditions conducive to containing the energy boomerang effect, or, to better realize the potential environmental gains of alternative energy converters. A degrowth society with a collectively-owned energy system would allow for a reduction in total energy use as well as a lower ratio of fossil fuel energy to alternative energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalFutures
Volume99
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2018

Keywords

  • Community energy
  • Ecological paradox
  • Energy boomerang effect
  • Energy democracy
  • Green technology
  • Renewable energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)

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