Frontlining energy justice: Visioning principles for energy transitions from community-based organizations in the United States
We review over 60 “visioning documents” authored by non-profits and frontline community members in the United States. These visions of energy justice – authored by the actors and communities that have historically organized energy justice programming – are largely absent in the energy justice literature, but they provide guidance on research and policy gaps. This article provides a review and thematic coding of visions for a just energy future, which enables an understanding of how energy justice links to history, policy, and other social movements, and concretizes calls for “place-based”, “frontline-centered”, and “spatially situated” approaches to energy justice. We find that organizations draft visioning documents because of the inherent value of community visioning to build shared political will, to assert their priorities in a policy space that has historically disregarded equity and justice, and to move climate policy in a transformative direction. That so many visioning documents exist suggests the insufficiency of current policy approaches, which are described in visioning documents as deficient in addressing the root causes and economic structures driving climate change. Additionally, we identify 6 principles of a just energy future articulated in these documents: (1) being place-based, (2) addressing the root causes and legacies of inequality, (3) shifting the balance of power in existing forms of energy governance, (4) creating new, cooperative, and participatory systems of energy governance and ownership, (5) adopting a rights-based approach, and (6) rejecting false solutions. We discuss how these principles can advance the energy justice literature and be applied across areas of energy policy intervention and geographies.