Philosophical explorations on energy transition

Robert-Jan Geerts

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


This dissertation explores energy transition from a philosophical perspective. It puts forward the thesis that energy production and consumption are so intimately intertwined with society that the transition towards a sustainable alternative will involve more than simply implementing novel technologies. Fossil energy sources and a growth-based economy have resulted in very specific energy practices, which will change in the future. Broader reflection is needed to understand how and in which direction such change is acceptable and desirable.

This reflection is initiated by articulating two pertinent problems with current energy practices that have thus far failed to receive appropriate attention in debates on energy transition: 1) the difficulty of dealing with intermittent sources in relation to the idea of cumulative accounting of energy consumption, and 2) the mismatch between expectations of ethical consumer behaviour in energy systems that discourage engagement.

To move forward, instead of assuming that all consumption is equivalent and that more is better, we must develop a better informed and more nuanced idea of 'good' energy practices that actually contribute to our quality of life. One often overlooked aspect of this may be 'embodied engagement', which would suggest that automation of tasks through energy-consuming technologies may be convenient, but also tends to lead to a loss of appreciation for both the task and its result. Some things, like creating a cozy environment around a fireplace, or climbing a mountain, are better partly because they take effort. In such cases, the 'efficiency' of the technology (e.g. the heat-pump, or the automobile) is besides the point - the question is whether it gives us anything of value at all.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Gremmen, Bart, Promotor
  • Ruivenkamp, Guido, Promotor
  • Jacobs, Josette, Co-promotor
Award date23 Jan 2017
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463430487
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2017


  • philosophy
  • technology
  • sustainable energy
  • renewable energy
  • social change
  • energy consumption
  • quality
  • society
  • energy


Dive into the research topics of 'Philosophical explorations on energy transition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this