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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Restorative Energy Justice


While distributive justice and procedural justice have received substantial attention from energy scholars, recent work identifies restorative justice as an underdeveloped component of the energy justice framework. As conceived in the context of criminal law, restorative justice seeks to more precisely account for harms and obligations that arise from wrongdoing, and to widen the circle of participation in repairing those harms. Restorative environmental justice wields these principles to advance the environmental justice framework beyond a tight focus on disparate environmental and health impacts. Restorative energy justice faces the challenge of deploying this restorative approach in an energy landscape that is often tightly focused on technology choices and business concerns.

In Hawai‘i, we find an opportunity to operationalize the concept of restorative energy justice. The origin of Hawai‘i’s regulated electricity industry is indelibly intertwined with the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. By incorporating a restorative approach that more fully considers the implications of those roots, energy regulators can better account for the future costs and benefits associated with Hawai‘i’s effort to decarbonize its electricity system. In turn, this improved accounting can reduce the risk that the urgency of decarbonization will be placed in a false tension with the imperative of justice.

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