Energy and the social contract: From “energy consumers” to “people with a right to energy”

Jiglau, George
Hesselman, Marlies
Dobbins, Audrey
Grossmann, Katrin
Guyet, Rachel
Tirado Herrero, Sergio
Throughout the last decade, the goal of acknowledging and alleviating energy poverty has made its way to the core of energy policies across the world, including the high-standing SDG7 as a benchmark. While much debate is still devoted to conceptual and empirical clarifications, its measurement through indicators, or the appropriate policies aimed at tackling it, there is widespread acceptance that energy poverty impacts tens of millions of lives across Europe and beyond. More recently, energy poverty has been deepened by a succession of international crises. We argue that the responses currently enacted to address energy poverty, in the context of these overlapping crises, point to a more profound problem that pre-existed the crises and reflects the current paradigm for household energy access. In this article, we aim to tie some of the loose ends in debates around the right to energy. We address some essential underpinnings of a rights-based approach to energy, by connecting existing narratives to the broader scope of the social contract, used as a concept which bears implications on the social and economic arrangements emphasized by the fundamental pillars of SDGs. We argue that, because energy markets are highly sensitive to instability and crisis contexts, there is a need to shift the paradigm from energy as a commodity purchased by consumers from markets towards energy as a right of people living in modern political communities, and tailoring energy policies around the right to energy ​
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