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Sustainable energy development: History of the concept and emerging themes

Sustainable energy development: History of the concept and emerging themes

Title: Sustainable energy development: History of the concept and emerging themes
Author: Gunnarsdóttir, Ingunn   orcid.org/0000-0003-3181-5344
Davidsdottir, Brynhildur   orcid.org/0000-0001-9783-9942
Worrell, E.
Sigurgeirsdóttir, Sigurbjörg   orcid.org/0000-0003-2245-3513
Date: 2021-05
Language: English
Scope: 110770
University/Institute: Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Félagsvísindasvið (HÍ)
School of Social Sciences (UI)
Department: Umhverfis- og auðlindafræði (HÍ)
Environment and Natural Resources (UI)
Stjórnmálafræðideild (HÍ)
Faculty of Political Science (UI)
Series: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews;141
ISSN: 1364-0321
DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2021.110770
Subject: Sustainable energy development; Energy policy; Sustainable development; Literature review; Sjálfbærni; Orkumál; Stefnumótun; Fræðilegt yfirlit
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/2459

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Gunnarsdottir, I., Davidsdottir, B., Worrell, E., & Sigurgeirsdottir, S. (2021). Sustainable energy development: History of the concept and emerging themes. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 141, 110770. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2021.110770


Sustainable energy development is a complex multi-dimensional concept that can vary in meaning based on the context it is applied in and the perspective of the user. The role of energy in achieving sustainable development was recognized when the concept was first put forward in 1987. However, what that role consisted of was not made clear. Since then, the concept of sustainable energy development has developed to become a prominent policy objective on the international agenda, as evidenced by the introduction of the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 7 on energy. This paper presents an overview of the history of the concept as well as its emerging themes. Through a citation analysis, the most cited open-access publications relevant to the concept were identified. A thematic analysis of these most cited publications led to the identification of four interrelated themes of sustainable energy development; access to affordable modern energy services, sustainable energy supply, sustainable energy consumption, and energy security. The overarching goal of sustainable energy development was defined as furthering sustainability. Equitable access to affordable and reliable modern energy services is integral to sustainable development. A transformation of the current energy system is necessary to reduce its harmful impacts, both on the supply and demand side. This transformation is not possible unless it is economically viable through, for instance, cost-competitive technologies and changes in energy pricing to reflect the external costs of energy.

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