• The paper defines energy policy failure in light of the energy transition.
  • Energy policy failure is where energy policy does not meet societal goals.
  • Unjust outcomes demonstrate energy policy failure.
  • Energy justice can provide a clear framework for considering energy policy failure.
  • Researchers should become more involved in analysing energy policy failures.


Energy policy failure is complex and to date there is a lack of a clear definition as society advances to a low-carbon world. Here a new definition is proposed, where energy policy does not meet local, national, and international energy and climate goals across the activities of the energy life-cycle and where just outcomes are not delivered. Energy policy failure is a major problem given the global aim of a low-carbon society, thus this paper conceptually sets out and defines energy policy failure in light of the energy transition, the 2015 Paris Agreement and the necessity of meeting energy and climate commitments. This conceptual research marks a first in connecting the current extensive energy justice literature with that of energy failure and under the premise of the climate emergency (announced by the United Nations in 2020). The direction here is both from a legal and an interdisciplinary perspective which is vital to energy research. The paper highlights the key literature on energy failures such as collapsed incentives, abandoned projects, mistakes, wrong paths, and bad decisions. It analyses some of the key causes and consequences of these energy policy failures, and aims to offer a solution for resolving them that meets the requirements of the just energy transition. At the heart of the paper's solution is the aim of furthering more fairness, equality, equity and inclusiveness into energy project decision-making, so that justice is at the centre of energy project development. Ensuring that this is the case will reduce a whole variety of project risks, result in successful project completion and reduce the possibility of energy policy failure, as society moves from the energy transition into net zero frameworks.

M.M. Sokołowski, R.J. Heffron (2022), "Defining and conceptualising energy policy failure: the when, where, why, and how", Energy Policy, 161: 112745