Sustainable development goal interactions for a just transition: multi-scalar solar energy rollout in Portugal
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEnergy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning and Policy, 2021. 10.1080/15567249.2021.1922547
Solar energy rollout has environmental and socio-economic impacts vital for just low-carbon energy transitions. The modular characteristics of solar photovoltaics enable multi-scalar deployment. How do environmental and socio-economic impacts vary across scales? This understudied relationship impacts the socio-spatiality of solar rollout, who benefits, and how this is enabled. Our study in Portugal during 2017–2020 examines how solar energy went from subsidies to record-setting competitiveness. Most new solar capacity was large scale, with barriers for community energy that weakened in 2020. We draw on interviews with 80 experts and a small-scale questionnaire survey with solar energy cooperative members. Findings show large-scale solar rollout primarily yielded environmental benefits, whereas small scale yielded socio-economic benefits. We argue that near-future joined-up solar energy policies can facilitate synergistic interactions across three United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by integrating environmental and socio-economic impacts. This main contribution can inform Portuguese and wider energy policies for sectoral development toward sustainability.