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Energy Research & Social Science


There is a divide in energy access studies, between technologically-focused modeling papers in engineering and economics, and energy justice frameworks and principles grounded in social sciences. Quantitative computational models are necessary when analyzing energy, and more specifically electricity, systems, as they are technologically-complex systems that can diverge from intuitive patterns. To assure energy justice, these models must be reflective of, and informative to, a wide range of stakeholders, including households and communities alongside utilities, governments, and others. Yet, moving from a qualitative understanding of preferences to quantitative modeling is challenging. In this perspective piece, we pilot the use of the value-focused thinking framework to inform stakeholder engagement. The result is a strategic objective hierarchy that highlights the tradeoffs and the social, economic and technological factors that need to be measured in models. We apply the process in Ghana, using a survey, stakeholder workshops, and follow-up interviews to uncover key tradeoffs and stakeholder-derived objectives. We discuss three key areas that have been rarely, if ever, well-represented in energy models: (1) the relationship between the dynamics of electricity end-use and the technology and economic structure of the system; (2) explicit tradeoffs between electricity access, cost, and reliability as defined by stakeholders; and (3) the definition of new objectives, such as minimizing hazards related to theft. We conclude that this model of engagement provides an opportunity to tie together rigorous qualitative analysis and stakeholder engagement with crucial quantitative models of the electricity system.





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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.