EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modelling the just allocation of energy infrastructure - Implications of assumptions and definitions of justice on model results

Oskar Vågerö1, Marianne Zeyringer1, and Tor Håkon Jackson Inderberg1,2
Oskar Vågerö et al.
  • 1University of Oslo, The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Technology Systems, Kjeller, Norway (
  • 2Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Lysaker, Norway

What constitutes socially just or unjust energy systems or transitions can be derived from the philosophy and principles of justice. Assessments of justice and modelling outputs leads to great differences based on which justice principles are applied. From the little research so far published in the intersection between energy systems modelling and justice, we find that comparisons between the two principles of utilitarianism and egalitarianism dominate in assessments of distributive justice, with the latter most often considered representing a 'just energy system'. Not recognising alternative and equally valid principles of justice, resting on e.g. capabilities, responsibilities and/or opportunities, may contribute to a narrow understanding of justice that fail to align with the views of different individuals, stakeholders and societies. More importantly, it can lead to the unjust design of future energy systems and energy systems analysis. 

In this work, we contribute to the growing amount of research on justice in energy systems modelling by assessing the implications of different philosophical views on justice on modelling results. Through a modelling exercise with a power system model for Europe (highRES Europe), we explore different designs of a future net-zero European energy system, and its distributional implications based on different justice principles. In addition to the utilitarian and egalitarian approach, we include, among others, principles of 'polluters pay' and 'ability-to-pay', which take historical contributions of greenhouse gas emissions and the socio-economic conditions of a region into account. 

We find that socially just energy systems look significantly different depending on the justice principles applied. Key output metrics include costs, technology mixes and spatial deployment of electricity generation infrastructure. The results should contribute to a greater discussion among researchers on the implications of different constructions of justice in modelling, expansion of approaches, and demonstrate the importance of transparency and assumptions when communicating such results. 

How to cite: Vågerö, O., Zeyringer, M., and Inderberg, T. H. J.: Modelling the just allocation of energy infrastructure - Implications of assumptions and definitions of justice on model results, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-12347,, 2023.