Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) are often portrayed as inherently just forms of energy production due to their role in climate change mitigation. This paper argues, first and foremost, that this overlooks the contextual struggles associated with renewable energy projects. We do so through critical engagement with an ‘Energy Lifecycle Framework’ approach to understanding claims of energy (in)justice in Oaxaca, Mexico. This framework for energy justice scholarship promises to enable whole systems interpretations related to the potential synergies and manifestations of injustice, existing at stages from resource extraction to waste, as well as opportunities for achieving more holistic forms of justice. Offering the stages of manufacturing and construction as crucial phases of any systemic approach to RETs and discussing the stage of consultation (an obligatory step in Mexico for energy projects in indigenous territories), the paper challenges and questions our ability to generate abstract interpretations of the relationship between energy lifecycles and their associated, contextually grounded, injustices. To do so, we draw upon extensive ethnographic fieldwork around the development of utility-scale wind power (USWP) projects undertaken in Oaxaca, where a number of regional peasant and indigenous groups have led sustained resistance to USWP on the basis of environmental, political and socio-economic impacts. Demonstrating how pre-existent and embedded cultural and environmental relationships determine the way in which energy justice is understood and constructed, the paper demonstrates tension as it simultaneously corroborates the usefulness of the Energy Lifecycle Framework and urges caution towards universalistic and staged approaches to assessing injustices in energy systems.
- energy justice
- renewable energy technologies
- wind power
- energy lifecycle framework