Grassroots Special Section: 'Colonialities of climate change and action' edited by Martina Hasenfratz, Benno Fladvad, Laura Gutierrez Escobar, Diego Silva et al.

Energy colonialism

Author: Franziska Müller orcid logo (University of Hamburg & University of Kassel)

  • Energy colonialism

    Grassroots Special Section: 'Colonialities of climate change and action' edited by Martina Hasenfratz, Benno Fladvad, Laura Gutierrez Escobar, Diego Silva et al.

    Energy colonialism

    Author:

Abstract

Energy colonialism is an essential, yet scarcely theorized concept for understanding how past, present and future energy systems are shaped by colonial or neocolonial power dynamics, imaginaries, discourses, and practices. These perspectives are important for contemporary debates on energy transition processes, namely with regard to green finance flows, new green geopolitics, and energy governance. Energy colonialism becomes manifest as power over energy transition processes, as an epistemic force with regard to knowledge orders and knowledge transfer, but also as an intervention on an individual scale, affecting daily life and human-nature relations. Colonial continuities are pervading contemporary energy debates, for instance in the ‘run-up’ for green hydrogen produced the Global South to sustain economic growth in the Global North, in colonial imaginaries of terra nullius conceptions reproduced in energy partnerships, and not least in financial dependencies that stabilize the political economy of clean energy. Reconstructing how different understandings of energy colonialism entered political and academic debate, this article provides an account of its history of ideas and demonstrates how a lack of theoretical underpinning limits analytical rigor and activist work. To close this gap, I engage with the concept of coloniality in use, and suggest a more nuanced understanding of energy colonialism. A nine-field matrix demonstrates how energy colonialism becomes manifest on different levels of energy transitions and how the concept may serve as a multidimensional research strategy for critical social science research on energy transitions and modes of energy governance, energy infrastructures, and energy subjectivities.

Keywords: energy colonialism, decoloniality, renewable energy, energy transition, green colonialism

How to Cite:

Müller, F., (2024) “Energy colonialism”, Journal of Political Ecology 31(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.5659

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Published on
06 Jun 2024
Peer Reviewed