Contestation, contingency, and justice in the Nordic low-carbon energy transition

Journal Article


The five Nordic countries have aggressive climate and energy policies in place and have already emerged to be leaders in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Denmark is renowned for its pioneering use of wind energy, Finland and Sweden bioenergy, Norway hydroelectricity and Iceland geothermal energy. All countries aim to be virtually “fossil free” by 2050. This study explores the Nordic energy transition through the lens of three interconnected research questions: How are they doing it? What challenges exist? And what broader lessons result for energy policy? The study firstly investigates the pathways necessary for these five countries to achieve their low-carbon goals. It argues that a concerted effort must be made to (1) promote decentralized and renewable forms of electricity supply; (2) shift to more sustainable forms of transport; (3) further improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings; and (4) adopt carbon capture and storage technologies for industry. However, the section that follows emphasizes some of the empirical barriers the Nordic transition must confront, namely political contestation, technological contingency, and social justice and recognition concerns. The study concludes with implications for what such historical progress, and future transition pathways, mean for both energy researchers and energy planners.