Towards a conceptualization of power in energy transitions
Journal article, 2017

The field of sustainability transitions has recently benefitted from efforts by multiple scholars at better conceptualizing power and politics, and integrating insights from other fields. This article argues for an understanding of power as relational, productive, contingent and situated. I conceptualize power to the aim of understanding and explaining how and where power relations become de/stabilized in energy transitions in poor rural communities. An understanding of power as a relational capacity to act is integrated with a sociotechnical and relational understanding of constitutive power, which enables us to explore the co-production of social relations, technology and nature. The resulting conceptualization is applied to a case of mini-hydropower electrification in Tanzania. I find that electrification simultaneously reinforces social inequality and enhances social mobility. I identify material, symbolic and discursive domains that work as sources of de/stabilization of social hierarchies, producing effects on the system configuration and relations of class and gender.

Sustainability transitions


Sociotechnical systems

Energy transitions

Constitutive power

Human power


Helene Ahlborg

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Environmental Systems Analysis

Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions

22104224 (eISSN)

Vol. 25 122-141

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Other Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering

Areas of Advance




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