New CESET briefing on intersectionality published

17th February, 2022

The CESET project team has just published its fourth briefing paper on “Towards an intersectional perspective on community energy: work-in-progress within CESET”.

CESET focuses on understanding how community energy projects can contribute to sustainable energy transition. However, community projects are not intrinsically positive. Community-based interventions have to deal with politics and involve multiple actors, with low carbon projects being shaped by the social inequalities that shape the context in which they unfold. Whilst the gender aspects of energy access are well documented, more research is needed into how energy access interventions can challenge existing gender-based inequalities and how gender aspects can be addressed in a transition to sustainability. At the same time, the drivers of discrimination and oppression cannot be neatly separated. Each experience of inequity is unique. People simultaneously confront multiple layers of discrimination, some of which are recognized (such as gender, but also other forms of oppression related to race, ethnic origin, age, having a disability, or sexual orientation) and some of which are more difficult to explain (such as forms of discrimination that relate to cultural or political dynamics). Intersectionality refers to any approach that seeks to challenge the drivers of oppression from within in situ experiences and that foregrounds people’s capacities to navigate complex social relations and existing inequalities. As community energy projects unfold, they may contribute to reinforcing these inequalities, or they may challenge them.

This briefing explains how CESET is trying to develop an intersectional perspective in our approach to community energy. First, we discuss the idea of intersectionality and what it would mean to think about intersectionality in practice. Second, we explore the approach to EDI strategy in CESET and what such an approach means in the context of infrastructure coproduction. Our perspective departs from the recognition of a gender gap in energy access and the difficulty in applying an intersectionality perspective to understand transitions. The third part of the briefing focuses on the practical application of intersectionality theory in one of CESET’s main activities, building an energy laboratory in peri-urban Maputo.

[Image credit: A solar powered future by DFID, Creative Commons Images]