The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU PhD candidate successfully defends thesis on energy justice in Dhaka’s slums

7 January 2021

Congratulations to Mark Jones who has successfully defended his doctoral thesis that global energy justice debates should be broadened beyond the present Northern focus to include specific studies in the global South, where energy injustices can be particularly impactful.


Access to energy is widely acknowledged to be a fundamental determinant of human wellbeing and a key element of poverty alleviation. The UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG7, target 1 demands that by 2030, we are to ‘ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services.’ This is an exceptionally ambitious aspiration, given that around one billion people live without electricity and about three billion, most of whom reside in the global South, depend on cooking with solid fuels. Research on the challenges of universal energy access for the urban poor has potential to contribute to substantial quality-of-life improvements for a vast population.

His study contributes to a deeper understanding of the complex and inequitable socio-technical infrastructures underlying access to energy for households in particularly challenging environments, the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The nascent energy justice debate is far from comprehensive at this stage of its development, with a deficiency in studies in the global South and for household scale analyses. Scholarship to date is largely situated in the North and presents global or national scale principles.

His understanding of the concepts around particularities of cities of the global South developed in the Southern urban critique provides an informative entry point for energy justice deliberations relating to informal settlements in poor cities. Through engaging with the capability approach, his thesis develops a detailed appreciation of the effects of energy injustices on households and individuals in a case study slum, Kalyanpur Pora Bostee in Dhaka. In these terms, his thesis opens a new dialogue between energy justice, the capability approach, and the Southern urban critique to develop an innovative framework for energy justice – a framework designed specifically for urban poverty conditions in the global South. He concludes with his framework presenting key principles for energy justice in this environment, and maps relationships and dependencies between those principles.