Benjamin Sovacool

Benjamin Sovacool
University of Sussex · Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU)

PhD

About

650
Publications
322,624
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Introduction
Dr. Benjamin K. Sovacool is Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School in the United Kingdom. There he serves as Director of the Sussex Energy Group. He is also University Distinguished Professor of Business & Social Sciences at Aarhus University in Denmark. Professor Sovacool works as a researcher and consultant on issues pertaining to energy policy, energy justice, energy security, and climate change.

Publications

Publications (650)
Article
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An extensive, representative, and, multi-country tailored survey questionnaire eliciting social practices with heat as an energy service and the relative perceptions about heating devices was submitted to a randomized sample of more than 6,000 potential end-users in Europe within the framework of the Horizon 2020 project SWS-HEATING. The project is...
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In global climate governance, anticipatory assessments map future options and pathways, in light of prospective risks and uncertainties, to inform present-day planning. Using data from 125 interviews, we ask: How are foundational experts contesting the conduct of anticipatory assessment of carbon removal and solar geoengineering – as two emerging b...
Article
Paper has shaped society for centuries and is considered one of humanity's most important inventions. However, pulp and paper products can be damaging to social and natural systems along their lifecycle of material extraction, processing, transportation, and waste handling. The pulp and paper industry is among the top five most energy-intensive ind...
Article
Here we propose a framework for considering the justice issues of industrial cluster decarbonisation, a pressing challenge confronting many industrialised economies. Industrial clusters are large, multi-point source emitters, users of energy and employers of regional and national significance. In the UK, establishing low carbon industrial clusters...
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So-called ''slum-dwellers" living in informal settlements in Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) often confront poor health outcomes, face chronic accommodation insecurity and are frequent victims of social intolerance, discrimination and racism. In addition, they usually reside in living environments with precariously hazardous conditions that of...
Article
Future retail electricity markets require development to accelerate the net-zero carbon transition. Adopting a customer-centric approach to market design is necessary to fully utilise smart grid technologies. In this perspective we postulate that empowering energy consumers to become an integral component of the smart grid will lead to heightened r...
Article
In January 2014, then British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that his government was ‘Going all out for Shale.’ In November 2019, during an election campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Government imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing bringing to a halt industry hopes of developing shale gas in the UK. This paper expl...
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Large-scale and highly experimental interventions are being considered as strategies to address climate change. These include carbon dioxide removal approaches that are becoming a key pillar of post-Paris assessment and governance, as well as the more controversial suite of solar geoengineering methods. In this paper, we ask: Who defends and oppose...
Article
Natural gas is an important and highly flexible fuel across the industry sector globally. It provides fuel and energy services for both heat and power, and is also as a key feedstock in many industrial processes. Natural gas-based industrial technologies typically have lower capital costs, operating costs, and electricity consumption than coal-base...
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While innovation is expected to play a major role in decarbonization, the development and diffusion of low-carbon technologies are too slow in most sectors and countries to stabilize the climate. In this introductory paper to a Special Issue on “Innovation and climate change”, we review selected innovation studies literature, reflect on historical...
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Internet data centers have received significant scientific, public, and media attention due to the challenges associated with their greenhouse gas, water, and land footprint. This resource greedy data services sector continues to rapidly grow driven by data storage, data mining, and file sharing activities by a wide range of end-users. A fundamenta...
Article
Clean energy plans must include safer, more sustainable, worker-friendly power storage.
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In this study, we utilize a large and diverse expert interview exercise (N = 125) to critically examine the whole systems justice issues associated with ten negative emissions and ten solar geoengineering technologies. We ask: What equity and justice concerns arise with these 20 options? What particular vulnerable groups could be affected? What ris...
Article
This article enriches the existing literature on the importance and role of the social sciences and humanities (SSH) in renewable energy sources research by providing a novel approach to instigating the future research agenda in this field. Employing a series of in-depth interviews, deliberative focus group workshops and a sys- tematic horizon scan...
Article
The oil refining industry, which was established in the mid-19th century, has become a foundation of modern society. While the refining of crude oil to produce transportation fuels, petrochemical feedstocks and a variety of other products has brought manifold benefits, it has also led to the global proliferation of greenhouse gas emissions as well...
Article
The iron and steel industry is the largest coal consumer and the most greenhouse gas intensive industry. It consumes about 7% of global energy supply, and conservative estimates report that it is responsible for 7–9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonization of the iron and steel industry is thus vital to meet climate change mitigation ta...
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This paper explores the funding trends, topical themes, and notable gaps in global public research funding across the areas of energy, climate change, transport, and industrial decarbonisation from 1990 to 2020. The paper organizes its analysis along the themes of financial and spatial patterns of funding, patterns of disciplinary funding, and the...
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Local electricity exchange is often praised for its ability to empower consumers and benefit communities. In this paper, we investigate and compare the development of local electricity exchange practices in three European countries: France, Switzerland, and Great Britain. We ask: how do local electricity exchange practices and markets vary across n...
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In Norway, stationary energy use in the housing sector grew steeply from the 1970 s to the beginning of the 1990 s, however over the last decades it has reached a saturation level. This article explains why Norway energy use increased at a different rate from 1990 to 2019 (0.15 percent per year) compared to development from 1970 to 1990 (2.4 percen...
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Public spending for research and development is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools for government policy in the areas of climate change and energy systems and technology innovation. However, existing datasets are currently fragmented, incomplete, and partial in their coverage. This study presents results from a more comprehensive, granular,...
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Peer review is the bedrock of modern academic research and its lasting contributions to science and society. And yet, reviewers can submit “poor” peer review reports, authors can blatantly ignore referee advice, and editors can contravene and undermine the peer review process itself. In this paper, we, the Editors of Energy Research & Social Scienc...
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Direct Air Capture with Carbon Storage (DACCS) technologies represent one of the most significant potential tools for tackling climate change by making net-zero and net-negative emissions achievable, as deemed necessary in reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the European Green Deal. We draw from a novel and original datas...
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Digital platforms and the online services that they provide have become an indispensable and ubiquitous part of modern lifestyles, mediating our jobs, hobbies, patterns of consumption and forms of communication. However, no one is steering this development, or closely looking at the impacts that it may have on remote communities in the Arctic and N...
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Profound societal change along with continued technical improvements will be required to meet our climate goals, as well as to improve people’s quality of life and ensure thriving economies and ecosystems. Achieving the urgent and necessary transformations laid out in the recently published IPCC report will require placing people at the heart of cl...
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Carbon removal-also known as negative emissions technologies, or greenhouse gas removal-represents a core pillar of post-Paris climate policy, signaling for enhancing and constructing carbon sinks to balance emissions sources on route to ambitious temperature targets. We build on Amory Lovins' "hard" and "soft" alternatives for energy pathways to i...
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The concept of 'just transitions' holds that sociotechnical change should not be achieved at the expense of vulnerable social groups. Here we take the case of a country with a high level of primary energy share that is renewable-Iceland-as well as high living standards, showing how energy and transport poverty are both possible and precariously exp...
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Even though a place to call home may be a fundamental human right, Gypsies and Travellers often confront some of the poorest health outcomes of any group in society, face almost constant accommodation insecurity, and reside in living environments with very poor conditions or high levels of social intolerance. Based on extensive original research wi...
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Solar energy, including household and community based solar photovoltaic panels, is the fastest growing source of low-carbon electricity worldwide, and it could become the single largest source of renewable energy by mid-century. But what negative equity and justice issues may be associated with its adoption? What risks are being accelerated as sol...
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Deliberations are underway to utilize increasingly radical technological options to help address climate change and stabilize the climatic system. Collectively, these options are often referred to as “climate geoengineering.” Deployment of such options, however, can create wicked tradeoffs in governance and require adaptive forms of risk management...
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What radical tactics might those seeking transformational action on climate or environmental sustainability undertake? What options are capable of stopping actors and institutions who already realize their actions and behavior may harm millions, degrade the biosphere, and contaminate the climate, but continue to do so, despite the scientific or mor...
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The energy efficiency and consumption of mobile networks have received increasing attention from academics and industry in recent years. This has been provoked by rapid increases in mobile data traffic and projected further rapid increases over the next decade. As a result, dramatic improvements in the energy efficiency of mobile networks are requi...
Article
Ceramics are considered one of the greatest and earliest most useful successes of humankind. However, ceramics can be highly damaging to natural and social systems during their lifecycle, from material extraction to waste handling. For example, each year in the EU, the manufacture of ceramics (e.g., refractories, wall and floor tiles and bricks and...
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In this Perspective, we suggest that research on just transitions and energy justice needs to better attend to the increasingly important trade-offs arising from issues related to speed and acceleration of low-carbon transitions. We identify and elaborate two important tensions that policymakers face when they want to simultaneously achieve both ju...
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The shift from carbon-intensive to low-carbon energy systems has profound justice implications as some regions are likely to lose as much as gain from decarbonization processes. Increasing calls have been made to adopt a 'whole systems' perspective on energy justice. Drawing on the Multi-level Perspective on socio-technical transitions this paper p...
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Given the growing frequency, severity, and salience of social mobilization and community action on energy and climate issues, in this study we systematically explore the configurations of types of infrastructure, actors, tactics, and outcomes of recent opposition to energy transitions across seven carbon-intensive regions in Asia, Europe, and North...
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Access to electric power and land are now key locational issues for the datacentre sector and most Nordic countries are pitching for their business. We use a comparative case analysis to illustrate several interrelated themes in Norway and Iceland, as both develop their datacentre sectors, but to date in differing ways. In both, digitalisation and...
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Space-based geoengineering is gaining attention, if not necessarily traction, as a possible "break the glass" solution to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and facilitate the transition to a low-carbon future. Though still on the periphery of discussions around climate mitigation and geoengineering, space-based methods that would deflect...
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Both policymakers and the technology industry need to do more to combat the ever-growing demand for data and its associated energy impacts. In this study, based on novel corporate data, expert interviews, focus groups with members of the public, extensive site visits across Greenland, Iceland and Norway and a literature review, we look at the energ...
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The world must ambitiously curtail greenhouse gas emissions to achieve climate stability. The literature often supposes that a low-carbon future will depend on a mix of technological innovation—improving the performance of new technologies and systems—as well as more sustainable behaviours such as travelling less or reducing waste. To what extent a...
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Low-carbon energy transitions scholarship has witnessed an exponential rise since the beginning of the millennium. Many studies have explored the different pathways to achieving global carbon neutrality in the next few decades. Greater efforts have been focused on how poorer regions could be supported to achieve universal access to clean and afford...
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Innovative policy instruments across the supply side (fossil fuel extraction), demand side (income and behaviour), and mediums of exchange (e.g.,. markets) can accelerate global decarbonization efforts in ways not yet supported by the global community. A fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, a maximum wage and restrictions on wealth, and a carbon c...
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This article focuses on the drivers and barriers afforded by three innovations—automated vehicles, electric mobility, and ridesharing and bike-sharing—in the four African urban areas of Johannesburg (South Africa), Kigali (Rwanda), Lagos (Nigeria) and Nairobi (Kenya). We ask: what are the drivers behind these innovations in these regions? What are...
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Research on 100% renewable energy systems is a relatively recent phenomenon. It was initiated in the mid-1970s, catalyzed by skyrocketing oil prices. Since the mid-2000s, it has quickly evolved into a prominent research field encompassing an expansive and growing number of research groups and organizations across the world. The main conclusion of m...
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Smart home technologies (SHT) refer to devices that provide some degree of digitally connected, automated, or enhanced services to household occupants. Smart homes have become prominent in recent technology and policy discussions about energy efficiency, climate change, and the sustainability of buildings. Nevertheless, how might culture shape the...
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Glass is a material inextricably linked with human civilization. It is also the product of an energy intensive industry. About 75%–85% of the total energy requirements to produce glass occur when the raw materials are heated in a furnace to more than 1500 °C. During this process, large volumes of emissions arise. The container and flat glass indust...
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In this paper, we explore the development of financing and subsidies for renewable energy in three fossil-fuelled European countries: Poland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Financing for renewable energy is an existing arena involving multi-actor activities and practices that develop and implement (innovative) financial instruments to fac...
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A rapid coal phase-out is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, but is hindered by serious challenges ranging from vested interests to the risks of social disruption. To understand how to organize a global coal phase-out, it is crucial to go beyond cost-effective climate mitigation scenarios and learn from the experience of previous coal...
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A decarbonized global energy sector is expected to need cumulative investments in the tens to hundreds of trillions of dollars between now and 2050. Due to its size, the current climate-business environment is therefore prone to corruption risks. Yet such corruption risks are rarely explored within the research community. Much of the extant literat...
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In what ways can new, emerging digital technologies and energy business models such as “prosuming” become intertwined with troubling patterns of domestic abuse and violence? Domestic violence entails controlling, coercive or threatening behaviours, to gain or maintain power and control between intimate partners or family members regardless of gende...
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The sustainability transitions field has been dominated by studies on single systems. Expanding the scope to Deep Transitions involving interactions between a broad array of socio-technical systems opens up new research directions in three important domains: 1) areas of intervention; 2) transition justice; 3) accelerating actors.
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Industrial decarbonization is a daunting challenge given the relative lack of low-carbon options available for “hard to decarbonize” industries such as iron and steel, cement, and chemicals. Hydrogen, however, offers one potential solution to this dilemma given that is an abundant and energy dense fuel capable of not just meeting industrial energy...
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This paper addresses the implementation of technology-forcing policies in open-ended diffusion processes that involve companies and regulators as well as consumers and civil society actors. Mobilising insights from the societal embedding of technology framework and policy steering theories, we investigate two implementation dilemmas that relate to...
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More than 70% of the dams under construction or planned in major river basins are transboundary. In this paper, based on original data and field research in three continents, we explore the impacts of transboundary dams in the major hydropower states of Laos, Paraguay, and Bhutan. We do so by looking at dimensions pertaining to energy security and...
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Low-carbon transitions across energy and transport systems have been widely researched in regards to how transitions are designed, what policies support them, which technologies they entail, and how fast, or slow, they take. Much of this research has focused on examining the agency and behavior of actors and institutions, or examining processes and...
Chapter
The chapter discusses how to achieve climate-neutral road transport. In particular we discuss the prospects afforded by the electrification of road transport, including the constraints to be overcome and policies that could accelerate such development. In our case studies, we first compare the electric vehicle (EV) policies of the Nordic countries...
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Globally those in slavery, though small in absolute numbers (est. 40.2 million), contribute disproportionately to environmental destruction and carbon emissions. If modern slaves were a country, they would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, after China and the United States. Concurrently, anthropogenic changes to the globa...
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The use of interconnected digital technologies and data offer new and perhaps profound opportunities across the world, whilst holding promises to enhance productivity growth and improved citizen wellbeing. In this research, we explore how people perceive the opportunities and drawbacks of smart homes and smart home technologies via the lens of gend...
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The implementation of determined or ambitious environmental policies may lead to regressive distributional impacts, disproportionately affecting low income population groups. The imposition of additional taxes on energy products affects negatively low-income households that face funding scarcity, increasing the risk of energy poverty. In this study...
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From farm to fork, food and beverage consumption can have significant negative impacts on energy consumption, water consumption, climate change, and other environmental subsystems. This paper presents a comprehensive, critical and systematic review of more than 350,000 sources of evidence, and a short list of 701 studies, on the topic of greenhouse...
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Domestic heating systems require a rapid shift to low-carbon options to meet global climate targets. We analyse a heat pump transition in two contrasting case studies: Finland and the United Kingdom, utilizing original data from interviews, document analysis, and archival online data. Finland has an almost completed transition, while the United Kin...
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Innovation patterns and processes must be aligned, and harnessed and accelerated across multiple domains to address our climate objectives and wider sustainability challenges. In this Perspective, we draw from original case studies on specific technologies and their related innovation systems in agriculture, buildings, electricity, ICT, industry, a...