In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geographies of Energy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Landscapes of Renewable Energy
  • Material Agencies
  • Energy Transitions
  • Justice, Poverty, and Exclusion

Geography Geographies of Energy
Andrés Luque-Ayala
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0132


The past decade has seen an explosion of geographical work around energy. Taking energy research outside the exclusive domain of the technological, these “energy geographies” are unpacking the social, cultural, and political dimensions of energy production and consumption, and the ways by which space, place, landscape, and territory co-constitute such energy processes. While this work strides across human and physical geography, it is within human geography where most of the work is being carried out. This emerging scholarship responds to—and is framed by—key contemporary debates, including climate change, a drive to move toward a low carbon economy, issues of resource constraints and security, and the rise of non-conventional fossil fuels. Geography is putting forward a way of doing “energy social science” which retains a strong engagement with the spatial and material dimensions of energy, while productively combining discursive, governance, and technological domains. The geographies of energy cover a broad range of themes and topics, from energy geopolitics and the different ways in which our understanding of fossil fuels is being transformed to the linkages between energy and key social topics such as identity, culture, justice, poverty, and exclusion. The field is also particularly open to influences from other disciplines. Energy geographers constantly draw on the work of scholars working outside the discipline, often building on insights generated within sociology, anthropology, and science and technology studies. Similarly, the scholarly debate generated by energy geographers attracts a multiplicity of social scientists beyond geography itself. The emphasis of this article is on works that have emanated from within the geographical discipline, by training, work, or professional association. However, at times it has been deemed relevant to cite non-geographical sources given their relevance within the subdiscipline.

General Overviews

While “energy geographies” are not new (see History of “Energy Geographies”), the subdiscipline is undergoing significant awakening, expansion, and change. This is largely explained by a novel contemporary context where energy debates are at the forefront of key societal challenges and transformations. As part of a renaissance in the subdiscipline, driven by the need to re-think the role and place of energy in society, new conceptual framings are emerging. For example, Bridge, et al. 2013 and Zimmerer 2011 make a call for engaging with traditional geographical and spatial concepts in developing a novel conceptualization of energy, while arguing that geographical knowledge is key for an understanding of current global and local energy dilemmas. Huber 2015 sees the need of going beyond this by generating a more explicit engagement between energy analyses and critical social theory through geographical debates informed by Marxism, poststructuralist, postmodern, postcolonial, and feminist thinking, among others. Most of the works listed below establish a clear difference between an emerging geographical approach, exemplified by Bridge, et al. 2013, and that of other disciplines such as anthropology (see Strauss, et al. 2013 cited under Energy, Identity, and Culture), sociology (see Guy and Shove 2000, cited under Subjectivities, Perceptions, and Demand), science and technology studies (see Rohracher 2008, cited under Energy Transitions) and social science more broadly (see Sovacool 2014, who argues a historical lack of social science analysis within energy research, proposing a detailed research agenda for “energy social science”). This renaissance in both energy social science and the geographies of energy is not limited to the Anglo-speaking world, as illustrated by Brücher 2009, arguably the first comprehensive German-language introduction to the topic.

  • Bridge, Gavin, Stefan Bouzarovski, Michael Bradshaw, and Nick Eyre. “Geographies of Energy Transition: Space, Place and the Low-Carbon Economy.” Energy Policy 53 (2013): 331–340.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.10.066

    Examines how human geography concepts contribute to an understanding of energy in the contemporary world, in the context of an aspired future low-carbon economy. The article argues for the need to consider location, landscape, territoriality, spatial differentiation, scaling, and spatial embeddedness in an analysis of energy security, renewable energy, and the interface between energy and climate change.

  • Brücher, Wolfgang. Energiegeographie: Wechselwirkung zwischen Ressourcen, Raum und Politik. Berlin: Borntraeger, 2009.

    Textbook introducing the notion of energy geographies, pointing to key references and source material available in German language. The book, whose translated title is “Energy geography: interaction between resources, space and politics,” links issues of power and place with an analysis of supply chains and consumption dynamics.

  • Calvert, Kirby. “From ‘Energy Geography’ to ‘Energy Geographies’: Perspectives on a Fertile Academic Borderland.” Progress in Human Geography 40.1 (2016): 105–125.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132514566343

    Offers a broad review of both historic and recent work on energy geographies, through four discrete lenses: spatial theory, geopolitical viewpoints and economic geography, socio-technical transitions, and the mobilization of geo-spatial techniques in decision-making. The author argues in favor of the value of geography toward energy analysis, given the hybrid and integrative nature of the discipline.

  • Huber, Matthew. “Theorizing Energy Geographies.” Geography Compass 9.6 (2015): 327–338.

    DOI: 10.1111/gec3.12214

    Suggests the need to further engage the subdiscipline with novel critical social theory debates, the relevance of providing greater attention to the political ecologies of energy, and the need for developing novel spatial concepts and perspectives through an engagement with energy.

  • Sovacool, Benjamin K. “What Are We Doing Here? Analyzing Fifteen Years of Energy Scholarship and Proposing a Social Science Research Agenda.” Energy Research & Social Science 1 (2014): 1–29.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2014.02.003

    Fourteen broad research avenues are outlined, including interdisciplinary and comparative collaborations, gender and identity, philosophy and ethics, geography and scale, and politics and political economy. The article, included in the inaugural piece of the journal, bases its claims on a meta-analysis of nearly five thousand articles published in energy journals.

  • Zimmerer, Karl S. “New Geographies of Energy: Introduction to the Special Issue.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101.4 (2011): 705–711.

    DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2011.575318

    Introduces a special issue on the topic, outlining recent energy work within the geographical discipline. The twenty-six pieces included cover the themes of energy modeling and assessment, fossil fuel landscapes, landscapes of renewable energy, and landscapes of energy consumption.

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