Assessing global stakeholder discourse of energy access policy using Q-methodology

Matthew Cotton, Daniela Salite, Joshua Kirshner

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Providing access to clean and reliable energy sources is embodied in Sustainable Development Goal 7 as one of the preconditions for socioeconomic development, poverty reduction, and the enhancement of human wellbeing. International development practitioners across global policy networks recognise the tangible benefits of domestic and commercial electricity as a form of energy service provision. These tangible benefits include lighting and powering appliances at domestic, private, and public sector scales, increased telecommunications coverage to provide new personal and business development opportunities, healthcare and food safety benefits, and improved leisure and night-time education prospects. Electricity use also minimises the health risks and ecological impacts associated with black-carbon fuels such as charcoal, which diminishes air quality within residential buildings and leads to deforestation.

As a policy problem there are a range of different strategies, goals and outcomes that can be achieved through energy access expansion, and multiple institutional constraints that must be overcome. Governments of low-income developing nations commonly seek to achieve 100% coverage rates through expanding the sheer number of connections, but the this can mask problems of service reliability, connection quality, and lack of maintenance and repair. Connecting rural communities can be achieved through centralised grid connections (last mile access), or through decentralised, off-grid renewables projects with cost and carbon implications for each. Issues of energy justice prompted by the cost and revenue raising implications of electricity infrastructure development are also of critical importance. In this study we assess a range of perspectives on energy access policy options from a panel of global stakeholders. We use Q-methodology – a combined quantitative-qualitative approach – to define emergent policy discourses. We discuss the dominant policy ‘frames’ emerging in the energy access space, the degree of discursive consensus amongst stakeholder perspectives, and critically evaluate the method for use in future policy analysis research.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021
EventEuropean Consortium for Political Research General Conference 2021 - Innsbruck, Austria
Duration: 30 Aug 20213 Sept 2021


ConferenceEuropean Consortium for Political Research General Conference 2021
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