Just transition management: Balancing just outcomes with just processes in Australian renewable energy transitions.

George Goddard, Megan Farrelly

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Transitioning electricity generation sectors to renewable energy is a necessary element of climate change mitigation but a challenging one with years of technical and social lock-in creating considerable inertia and a pace of change insufficient to meet the task. Transition management has emerged as a promising approach to proactively manage and accelerate transitions in sectors like energy and water and has the potential to do so in manner that would help secure energy justice. However, the approach has been criticised for ignoring the political dynamics of transitions, risking procedural and recognition injustice for traditional energy production regions while increasing opposition to a transition. This paper uses a qualitative case study approach to understand how a transition to renewable energy generation could be achieved in a way that secures energy justice for traditional energy production regions like those of Gladstone in the Australian state of Queensland. The paper augments the transition management approach with the “just transitions” concept, which has emerged from labour movements as a means to mitigate negative impacts on workers and communities in traditional energy production regions, to create a “Just Transition Management” framework that is applied as a diagnostic tool to the case study. While results suggest a transition is imminent within Queensland, a lack of: consistent, supportive federal policy; long-term visions, and a clear process leaves it at risk of being captured by the powerful incumbent resources sector utilising an “environment vs. jobs” narrative. Yet, the results also suggest that adopting a just transition management approach has the potential to successfully resist the influence of the resources sector, by providing cheap, secure renewable energy and supporting affected workers into roles in the renewable energy sector using a reflexive, representative network governance approach. Data analysis reveals how the application of just transition principles has already engaged communities and unions that were previously sceptical of renewable energy. Overall, this study suggests that the just transition management framework assists in identifying the political barriers to transitions and energy justice more broadly, while also providing a management approach which creates powerful niche actor-networks to counter the narratives and influence of the incumbent resource sector. Thus it could support successful transitions that achieve the distributional, recognition and procedural justice needed for energy justice globally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-123
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • Sustainability transitions
  • Transitions management
  • Just transitions
  • Renewable energy
  • Australia
  • Energy transformation

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