Empowered Futures  - A global research school navigating the social and environmental controversies of low-carbon energy transition.

Empowered Futures

Knowledge and competence on energy transitions transcends technological innovation. Energy developments divide opinion and generate controversy. Recognizing the social and political nature of power, Empowered Futures is a research school providing research-based competence on conflict mediation, equitable policy and development frameworks to achieve just energy transition.

Empowered Futures  - A global research school navigating the social and environmental controversies of low-carbon energy transition.
Aims of the research school

The aim of Empowered Futures is to significantly strengthen the societal and professional relevance of doctoral education by addressing the social and environmental controversies of low-carbon energy transitions. In this PhD school, key research environments in Norway join forces to educate scholars of the future in energy social science.

The Faculty of Landscape and Society at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) will work together with multiple academic and societal partners to form an innovative, collaborative and international state-of-the art research school.

Empowered Futures enables a coordinated and unique platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, joint courses and activities with governance and business partners. The School targets a broad range of social scientific PhD candidates with a specific interest in building careers (in research, business, consultancy and the public sector) geared to both critically explore and empower energy transitions, and to enable workable and just pathways through the controversies they generate.

An overview of the purpose and aims of Empowered Futures.
Apply for membership

Join Empowered Futures

The Empowered Futures PhD School 2022-2030 releases a call for new members annually until 2027. The next call will be announced here in 2023. Membership carries both rights and obligations for a 3-year period. Those who fulfil all the criteria will receive a certificate of completion. 

Who can apply?

PhD or Post-doctorate Fellows in the first 18 months of their PhD or postdoctoral fellowship, whose research interests are within energy / renewable energy and/or low-carbon energy transition.

Benefits of membership

During their 3-year term, members are offered preferential access to activities: PhD courses, training workshops on communication and impact assessment, internships, practica, policy roundtables, and study tours. All of the activities are fully financed by Empowered Futures. Grants will be made available to members of the School to assist with funding travel and accommodation. Members join a network of PhD and postdoc fellows as well as national and international faculty and partners associated with the PhD School. We will help to facilitate continued contact between members as an alumni network. We will actively respond and promote the interests and output of all members. Opportunities will be created for candidates to write and co-publish together, and where when feasible, with the experts connected to the school.

Selection criteria

The committee will select candidates based on the following criteria: (1) thematic fit to the scope of the researcher school, (2) the potential benefit to the applicant of participation in the researcher school, and (3) academic quality of the submitted material.


The deadline for submissions to the first 3-year cohort has now passed. A new call for candidates will be made in 2023.

2022 Cohort

The first cohort of new members to the Empowered Futures research school has now been selected. Congratulations to the 16 new candidates, who come from Norway, Denmark, Chile, Sweden, Ireland, UK, Spain, Ghana, Netherlands, France, Czech Republic and Switzerland. They are affiliated to the following institutions: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU);  Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), University of Oslo (UiO); UiT- The Arctic University of Norway; University of Agder (UiA); University of Bergen (UiB); Lund University; Roskilde University;  Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; University of Edinburgh; University of Strathclyde; University of Leeds and Charles University in the Czech Republic.

Activities 2023

14 August. Roundtable at Arendalsuka, Arendal, Norway


In this roundtable session, we focus on which arguments count in the assessment of land requirements between energy and nature. Which needs are most important - and whose knowledge counts? Who orders the knowledge base - and who processes it? How should knowledge affect energy development and licensing processes? Is there a need for other tools and processes to plan energy development better?

  • Espen Barth Eide, Klima- og Miljøminister, Arbeiderpartiet
  • Truls Gulwosen, Leder, Naturvernforbundet
  • Une Bastholm, Stortingsrepresentant, Miljøpartiet De Grønne
  • NVE
  • Mikaela Vasstrøm, Førsteamanuensis, Universitet i Agder
  • John Andrew McNeish, Professor, Norsk Miljø- og Biovitenskapelige Universitet
  • Vegard Solhjem Knutsen, PhD, Universitet i Agder

14 August 2023,15.00-16.00, University of Agder (UiA) tent, Arendalsuka.
In Norwegian

21-24 August. Empowered Futures PhD Course, Rjukan, Norway

Exploring and Communicating Competing Narratives of Energy Production Across Time and Space.

This PhD course will be held in Rjukan - the birthplace of the Norwegian
hydropower industry.

This PhD course has two central aims. First, it explores the diverse and dynamic nature of the social, economic, and political effects of shifting to green modes of energy production, with a particular reference to the Norwegian context. Second, it explores the narratives and stories that shape society’s understanding of the green energy transition and the ways in which narratives, discourse, and stories about the energy transition are produced, legitimised and disseminated in society. This includes ideas and depiction of Solarpunk futures i.e., an attempt to counter the negative dystopia of capitalist dominated petromodernity with alternative eco-speculation and designs not only for the use of other energy
sources but other forms of organising society on their foundation. The course thus has a heavy focus on different ways to produce (“modes of production”) research-based energy transition narratives and various modes of dissemination of those narratives within society.

This PhD course will: 1) deliver a set of lectures on the questions of the current and future social, economic, and political effects of new, green modes of energy production – and the interaction between these three areas; 2) workshop student papers through interactive and participatory daily sessions; and 3) engage students in learning and practicing novel forms of dissemination through artistic (visual) representation and podcasting.

Apply to join the course:
School members: https://nettskjema.no/a/325532
Non-members: https://nettskjema.no/a/349269

Deadline for registration 30 June 2023.

25-26 August. Workshop on Social Environmental Impact Assessment, Nome Municipality, Telemark, Norway.

The workshop will take place in Nome municipality in Telemark Norway (a 2
hour drive from the venue of the PhD course in Rjukan). The municipality of
Nome is on the brink of a major societal transition related to mining of rare
minerals and Thorium (for energy production). Potential exploitation of this
mineral field will have vast economic, ecological and socio-cultural
consequences. As featured in the recent Norwegian TV series Occupied,
imaginations already run wild as to the future opportunities and costs of
moving away from oil and exploiting thorium. The municipal government are
interested to explore both conventional, experimental and participatory approaches to avoid socio-environmental impacts and to better identify and
respond to the diverse values and imaginaries within the local community.

Over the course of two days we will explore the conflicts and controversies that commonly accompany impact assessment and identify what current approaches fail to address. By introducing perspectives from recognition based energy justice, socioecological restitution and counter mapping the workshop aims to discuss and develop new perspectives and approaches to impact assessment that are moreresponsive to local community perspectives and future imaginaries.

Apply to join the workshop: If you are a member of the research school and
interested in joining the workshop please fill out the following registration form : https://nettskjema.no/a/329078.

The Workshop has been co-organized by the University of Agder, Multiconsult, NMBU and Nome Municipality.

Practica 2023

Coordinated by Nordic Edge and Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

With local government and private sector partners, we will design biannual field labs and experiments to develop and test monitoring and regulation methods and technologies and discuss implications through PhD group work. These arenas will help PhD candidates develop vital skills and confidence for their projects and future work. They will also serve as sites to test methodological and theoretical approaches, with applied synergetic value for local governments in energy development contestations, e.g., by assessing socio-ecological needs to direct spending by municipalities generating revenue flow from new wind power or inserting socio-spatial justice aspects and energy use patterns into electric charging station expansion plans, to improve upon current planning modes and strategies.

Financing is available to cover travel and accommodation for PhD School Members. More details to come soon.

Internships 2023

Coordinated by Multiconsult and NMBU.

The school will facilitate PhD candidates to gain practical experience in the business and governance of energy development and planning, with at least 3 annual internships in local government, energy companies, government regulatory bodies and consultancy companies . There is also potential to develop research exchange with our wider international network. This activity aids recruitment, work-life relevance and the co-production of relevant and tested skills and knowledge. Landsam NMBU has existing experience in the organization, credit production and guidance of internships with work life partners.

Financing is available to cover travel and accommodation for PhD School Members.

Activities archive

Excursion to Stavanger / Sola Kommune, Norway
Excursion to Stavanger / Sola Kommune, Norway
Field excursion to learn about Sola kommune's plans for a different energy future
25 May 2023
Communications workshop, Bjørnafjorden Hotell, Bergen, Norway
Communications workshop, Bjørnafjorden Hotell, Bergen, Norway
Meet and greet and academic writing masterclass with Benjamin Sovacool
23 May 2023
Kick off Seminar
Kick off Seminar
16:30-18:30h Vitenparken, NMBU
29 Sep 2022
Internship at NVE
Internship at NVE
The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate
01 Oct 2022
Energy transitions and controversies
Energy transitions and controversies
NMBU Global Development Studies Lecture 2022
02 Dec 2022
School news

Reflecting upon alternative energy futures in Sola kommune.
Birgitte Nygaard

The excursion led us around the Stavanger/Sola area on May 25-26. Representatives from Stavanger Development and Storhaug Unlimited began by introducing us to initiatives and issues related to strengthening future sustainable urban development and citizen wellbeing around the city, while a peak into the Vindmøllebakken sustainable collective offered us an example of how future housing could look. We continued to Felleskjøpet, where representatives discussed with us potential options for re-use of waste heat from the heavy industry process, in relation to the Positive Energy District vision. We ended the day with a lively discussion moderated by rector Klaus Mohn, UiS.  Representatives from Storhaug Unlimited, Pådriv Stavanger, Nordic Edge, Klimapartnere Rogaland, Rogaland County, as well as school board member Professor Per Gunnar Røe, UiO, offered insightful and engaging perspectives on future urban and regional development in the Stavanger region.

On day two, we left the city centre to explore introductions of new technologies at Forus Industrial Park, Atea, Avinor, and Risavika harbour, to increase levels of self-sufficiency and energy efficiency while reducing carbon emissions. The day ended with presentations from Lnett and Norseagruppen on energy assessments and renewable industrial development in the region. A keynote by Dr. Timothy Moss (Humboldt University) unfolded the idea of past proofing energy futures by mobilising usable infrastructures of the past to ground speculative futures. Professor Harriet Thomson (University of Birmingham) concluded the week with an interactive keynote on inclusive energy futures, and exercises of collective reflections on the many inputs we had been introduced to.

The excursion offered great insights into not only the plurality of actors engaged locally and regionally, but also the many ways they are initiating new projects to translate global ambitions for a sustainable future into the local context. In my work, I examine framings of yet-to-come energy technologies, so it was inspiring to see concrete and established projects along with the planned ones. In addition, it was encouraging to see how aspects of justice and broader understandings of citizen wellbeing make up the foundation for a good part of the projects. The hands-on presentations by local stakeholders offered a good balance to the keynotes that left me reflecting upon how desirable sustainable futures were presented, how they could look, and how the infrastructures and experiences of the past ought to be mobilised in anchoring speculative futures.

Photos: Siddharth Sareen & John McNeish


Empowered Futures, Sola kommune, May 2023
Empowered Futures, Sola kommune, May 2023
Empowered Futures, Sola kommune, May 2023
Empowered Futures, Sola kommune, May 2023
Empowered Futures, Sola kommune, May 2023
Empowered Futures, Sola kommune, May 2023
Empowered Futures, Sola kommune, May 2023
Empowered Futures communications workshop, May 2023
Empowered Futures communications workshop, May 2023

Communications workshop in Bergen

The first Empowered Future communications workshop took place on 23 and 24 May. Academic partners and 15 school members met each other in-person for the first time at Bjørnafjorden Hotel, Os, near Bergen. Day one began with a round of introductions, before the first part of an academic writing masterclass by acclaimed energy scholar, Professor Benjamin Sovacool. Professor Sovacool focused on the best ways of searching literature, theoretical frameworks and conceptual approaches, and research design. This was followed by PhD project presentations from members Vegard Solhjem Knutsen, Ulrik Kohl, Shayan Shokrgozar, Nicol Staňková, Mathilde Rainard, and Marieke van der Star.   

Day two began with the second part of Professor Benjamin Sovacool’s masterclass. Here he focused on promoting research and impact, preparing for rejection and failure, and his own 8 personal tips for becoming a better and productive researcher. Finlay Bain Kerr of University of Strathclyde, Scotland is researching the tensions and considerations present in the minewater geothermal energy development ecosystem in Scotland to illicit greater understanding on how to overcome embedded injustices in the energy system. Of the masterclass, he commented:

For me the most useful part was about the triangulation of theoretical families, and that you don’t have to combine or lump them together, but you can position them in different ways and then find where you situate within that. I find that for my research there’s a very strong practical relevance and real-world relevance. It’s very much influenced by theory but trying to find where I contribute to theory is quite a challenge.”

Day two ended with the remaining nine PhD project presentations from Line Lefstad, Larry Ibrahim Mohammed, Håkon da Silva Hyldmo, Hilde Solli, Finlay Bain Kerr, Daniel Molin, Cristián Flores Fernández, Birgitte Nygaard, and Anna-Sophie Hobi. After a discussion and feedback session, the group then headed to Stavanger and Sola kommune to learn about their plans for a different energy future.   


Vegard Knutsen completes internship at NVE

In February, Empowered Futures member, and board representative, Vegard Solhjem Knutsen completed a two-week internship with our partner, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE). NVE are the directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy responsible for the management and licensing of Norway’s water and energy resources.  Vegard is a PhD Candidate in Energy and Society at the University of Agder. His PhD research project explores why Norwegian land-based wind power is controversial, what the driving forces behind resistance to wind power are, and how polices and planning practices can be rethought to enable a just pathway towards energy transition.

The internship offered Vegard an opportunity to understand more about NVE’s role in the licensing process for new wind power developments in Norway. During his time with NVE, Vegard was able to conduct interviews with several employees. His contact helped arrange interviews with some key staff, but others were happy to talk to him from just a knock on their door. Everyone he met was very welcoming and interested in discussing their role in the energy licensing process as well as answering critical questions about the Norwegian energy market. Vegard was also able to sit-in at meetings where NVE discussed changes to licensing, due to the resistance to Norwegian land-based wind power being so strong that they had temporarily halted the licensing process.

Vegard learned a lot from his time at NVE. He described the experience as “very fruitful” in understanding wind power and its place in Norwegian energy production, along with the complexities involved in the licensing process. Vegard believes the data he gathered through interviews, discussions and being part of the open environment at NVE will be useful in his future publications about how to think about the energy transition and new ways of managing our natural resources and energy resources: “We have to take care of the people who are living here, and also take care of the nature, and that is very difficult.”   

Vegard Solhjem Knutsen
Vegard Solhjem Knutsen

First activity of 2023

From 23-24 May, members will meet for the first time at our Communications Workshop in Bergen. We are also delighted to welcome Professor Benjamin Sovacool who will give a masterclass in academic writing. Professor Sovacool is a leading researcher and consultant on issues pertaining to global energy politics, energy security, energy justice, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation. The workshop will be followed by an excursion to the city of Stavanger and Sola kommune to learn about their plans for a different energy future.   

Congratulations to all candidates accepted to the first cohort of Empowered Futures

Candidates come from Norway, Denmark, Chile, Sweden, Ireland, UK, Spain, Ghana, Netherlands, France, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

External events
XIX Biennial IASC Conference

Biennial event from the International Association for the Study of the Commons

IST 2023

14th International Sustainability Transitions Conference (IST), Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Netherlands, 30 Aug-1 Sept, 2023

NTNU Energy Team Society Conference

Beyond crisis/Beyond normal: A social science and humanities conference on sustainability. Organized by NTNU Energy Team Society. Trondheim, Norway, 27-28 September 2023.

HYDRO 2023 - New Ideas for Proven Resources

HYDRO 2023 International Conference and Exhibition, Edinburgh International Congress Centre, Scotland, 16 - 18 October, 2023.

Beyond Oil 2023: Refuelling Transformation

5th biennial international and interdisciplinary conference hosted by the Centre of Climate and Energy Transformation (CET) at the University of Bergen, Norway, 17 - 18 October, 2023.

Call for abstracts is open until 31 May 2023.

Recommended reading

Energy justice in the context of green extractivism: Perpetuating ontological and epistemological violence in the Yucatan Peninsula

Carlos Tornel. Article in Journal of Political Ecology (2023)

As the world gets warmer, the deployment of low-carbon infrastructure is seen as the cornerstone to mitigate the pressures created by fossil capitalism, prompting questions over what constitutes a 'just' energy transition. This has simultaneously broadened the discussion over what are the social justice and colonial legacies embedded in the infrastructural, technological and material composition of energy systems. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with different actors, this article looks at the deployment of low carbon infrastructure in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, as the colonial legacies, politics and power relations embedded in energy systems interact with the construction of the so-called "Maya Train", a regional integration project seeking to interconnect the southeast of Mexico. It asks the question: can we speak of energy justice in a context of total extraction? Drawing on the literature of green extractivism, it argues that as long as energy justice is linked to a Westernized conception of modernity and development it risks reproducing injustices instead of solving them. The article suggests that political ecology must pay closer attention to emancipatory struggles in defense of the territory as they move away from a universal definition of energy justice.

Energy justice, Just Transitions and Scottish energy policy: A re-grounding of theory in policy practice

Lara M. Santos Ayllón & Kirsten E.H. Jenkins. Article in Energy Research & Social Science (2023)

A great start to 2023 for cohort member Lara Santos Ayllón! Lara is a PhD Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). In this article, Ayllón and Jenkins examine energy justice and just transition literature to explore the Scottish energy policy landscape and how energy justice is conceptualised in policy practice

Haste. The slow politics of climate urgency

Edited by Håvard Haarstad, Jakob Grandin, Kristin Kjærås, and Eleanor Johnson. UCL Press 2023

Haste. The slow politics of climate urgency. Recommended reading for the Empowered Futures Research School.

What does it mean politically to construct climate change as a matter of urgency? We are certainly running out of time to stop climate change. But perhaps this particular understanding of urgency could be at the heart of the problem. When in haste, we make more mistakes, we overlook things, we get tunnel vision. Here we make the case for a ‘slow politics of urgency’. Rather than rushing and speeding up, the sustainable future is arguably better served by us challenging the dominant framings through which we understand time and change in society.

SOVEREIGN FORCES: Everyday Challenges to Environmental Governance in Latin America

John-Andrew McNeish. Berghan June 2021

SOVEREIGN FORCES: Everyday Challenges to Environmental Governance in Latin America. Recommended reading for the Empowered Futures Research School.

Sovereignty is a significant force regarding the ownership, use, protection and management of natural resources. By placing an emphasis on the complex intertwined relationship between natural resources and diverse claims to resource sovereignty, this book reveals the backstory of contemporary resource contestations in Latin America and their positioning within a more extensive history of extraction in the region. Exploring cases of resource contestation in Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala, Sovereign Forces highlights the value of these relationships to the practice of environmental governance and peacebuilding in the region.

Our Extractive Age. Expressions of Violence and Resistance

Judith Shapiro (editor), John-Andrew McNeish (editor). Routledge 2021.

Our Extractive Age: Expressions of Violence and Resistance. Recommended reading for the Empowered Futures Research School.

Our Extractive Age: Expressions of Violence and Resistance emphasizes how the spectrum of violence associated with natural resource extraction permeates contemporary collective life. Chronicling the increasing rates of brutal suppression of local environmental and labor activists in rural and urban sites of extraction, this volume also foregrounds related violence in areas we might not expect, such as infrastructural developments, protected areas for nature conservation, and even geoengineering in the name of carbon mitigation.

Partners and Advisory Board


Academic Partners:

Faculty of Landscape and Society (Norwegian University of Life Sciences)

INCLUDE Research Centre for Socially Inclusive Energy Transition (University of Oslo)

Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (University of Bergen)

Sustainability Transformation programme area (University of Stavanger)

Department of Global Development and Planning (University of Agder)

Societal Partners:


  • Benjamin Sovacool, University of Sussex, UK
  • Adrian Smith, University of Sussex, UK
  • Gisa Weszkalnys, London School of Economics, UK
  • Gordon Walker, Lancaster University, UK
  • Ingmar Lippert, Brandenburgiche Technische Universität - Berlin, Germany
  • Timothy Moss, Humbolt University - Berlin, Germany
  • Lina Dencik, Cardiff University
  • Mette High, St. Andrews University, Scotland, UK
  • Nathalie Ortar, ENTPE France
  • Simone Abram, Durham University, UK
  • Lars Kåre Grimsby, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
  • Erling Holden, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
  • Samuel Adamarola, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
  • Laura Tolnev Clausen, University of Agder, Norway
  • Kjell Overåg, University of Agder, Norway
  • Hans Kjetil Lysgård, University of Agder, Norway
School members
Anna-Sophie Hobi
Anna-Sophie Hobi

Anna-Sophie Hobi (board representative)

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

PhD programme: International Environment and Development Studies

PhD project: Gigafutures: 'Green' industrialisation and the imagining of a large-scale battery industry in Norway

Academic publications:

Mutondoro, Farai, Anna-Sophie Hobi, Mutuso Dhliwayo, and Josephine Chiname. 2022. ‘Resource-Backed Loans, COVID-19 and the High Risk of Debt Trap: A Case Study of Zimbabwe’. In COVID-19 and Sovereign Debt: The Case of SADC, edited by Daniel D. Bradlow and Magalie L. Masamba, 303–30. Pretoria: Pretoria University Law Press (PULP).

Hobi, Anna-Sophie. 2020. ‘(Extr)Activism, Governance and Power: A Short Account of Advocacy’. In Ethnographic Vignettes: Social Change and Social Encounters in Solwezi, Northwestern Zambia, edited by Rita Kesselring, 20/21:31–33. Basel Papers on Political Transformations. Basel: Institute of Social Anthropology.

Birgitte Nygaard
Birgitte Nygaard

Birgitte Nygaard

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

PhD programme: Science and Technology Studies

PhD project: Framings of Norwegian Wind Energy Futures.

The aim of the project is to examine how understandings of the future role(s) of wind power are shaped, by whom, and how it relates to Norway’s position in the world and its identity as an ‘energy nation’.

Academic publications:

Nygaard, B. & Hansen, T. (2020). "Local Development through the Foundational Economy? Priority-setting in Danish Municipalities". Local Economy, 35 (8): 768-786.

Kollerup, S. S. & Nygaard, B. (2018) "Affaldshåndtering i etageboliger - et indblik i borgerens adfærd" (Waste management in apartment buildings - an insight into citizen behaviour). Centre for Green Transition, City of Aalborg.

Cristián Flores
Cristián Flores

Cristián Flores Fernández

Humboldt University of Berlin

PhD programme: Geography

PhD project: The project aims to investigate the interdependent global, national, and local dynamics that interact in the process of expansion and intensification of lithium mining in the salt flats of northern Chile and wind power generation in the southern region of Magallanes.

Academic publications:

Flores Fernández, C. and Alba, R., 2023. Water or mineral resource? Legal interpretations and hydrosocial configurations of lithium mining in Chile. Frontiers in Water5, p.51.

Daniel Molin
Daniel Molin

Daniel Molin

University of Oslo

PhD programme: Human Geography

PhD project: From petrol stations to charging networks.
The project aims to develop better understanding of policy making to change infrastructure systems by comparing electrification of transport and charging infrastructure in Norway and Sweden.

Finlay Bain Kerr
Finlay Bain Kerr

Finlay Bain Kerr

University of Strathclyde

PhD project: Minewater Geothermal Energy: just, place-based models for energy resource development.
The research explores the tensions and considerations present in the MWG development ecosystem in Scotland to illicit greater understanding on how to overcome embedded injustices in the energy system.

Greg Grant
Greg Grant

Greg Grant

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

PhD programme: Landscape and Society

PhD project: Hydropower Development in Norway: A Historical Case Study of Socio-Spatial Impacts and Contemporary Implications for Landscape Democracy and Energy Justice.
The project aims to investigate the historical development of hydropower in Norway as a case study of the socio-spatial impacts of a new energy technology, its influence on landscape perceptions, and to explore the implications of these combined impacts for the concepts of landscape democracy and energy justice today in the context of social controversy related to the 'green shift' to sustainable energy sources.

Hilde Solli
Hilde Solli

Hilde Solli

University of Oslo (UiO)

PhD programme: Just Transition in Urban Mobility

PhD project: The project seeks to develop better understanding of the significance of different places and access to mobility through experiences of people’s own mobility, their possibilities and restrictions, and how they experience policy measures and intervention through a case study in Oslo.

Academic publications:

Vedeld, T., Hofstad, H., Solli, H., & Hanssen, G. S. (2021). Polycentric urban climate governance: Creating synergies between integrative and interactive governance in Oslo. Environmental Policy and Governance, 31(4), 347-360.

Norheim, B., Haugsbø, M. S., & Solli, H. (2016). Areal og transport og nullvekstmål. Plan48(5), 14-19.

Solli, H. (2014). Har Riksrevisjonen skylda for detaljbasert styring?. Stat & Styring24(4), 42-44.

Solli, H. (2007). Means to learn and control. The effect of BP business standards on local supplies in the oil industry in Azerbaijan. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift–Norwegian Journal of Geography61(1), 34-37.

Håkon da Silva Hyldmo
Håkon da Silva Hyldmo

Håkon da Silva Hyldmo

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

PhD programme: PhD Programme in the Social Sciences

PhD project: The project aims to improve understanding of how policies, industries and communities in Europe and Indonesia are shaped by the ideas of ‘green deals’ and green energy transitions. The project will combine studies of ‘green deal’ discourses in Europe with case-studies of extractive mineral practices (rare earths, nickel and tin) in Indonesia.

Academic publications:

Nunn, J. et al. (2022) Standardised data on initiatives—STARDIT: Beta version. Research Involvement and Engagement,  8(1), 1-28.

Coscieme, L. et al. (2020) Multiple conceptualizations of nature are key to inclusivity and legitimacy in global environmental governance. Environmental Science and Policy, 104, 36-42.

Sanders, A. et al. (2017) Guinea pig or pioneer: Translating global environmental objectives through to local actions in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s REDD+ pilot province. Global Environmental Change, 42, 68-81.

Lara Maria Santos Ayllón
Lara Maria Santos Ayllón

Lara Maria Santos Ayllón

University of Edinburgh

PhD project: The role of emerging technologies in the energy transition: a justice and responsible innovation exploration of marine energy and green hydrogen in island communities.
The research explores marine renewables and hydrogen as two emerging energy sources and technologies in the Orkney Islands through justice and responsible research and innovation frameworks in a time when decisions about renewable energy system design continue to be based primarily on lowest monetary cost, along with being "low-carbon" at point of generation.

Academic publications:

Ayllón, L. M. S., & Jenkins, K. E. (2023). Energy justice, Just Transitions and Scottish energy policy: A re-grounding of theory in policy practice. Energy Research & Social Science96, 102922.

Abram et al., (2022) Just Transition: A whole-systems approach to decarbonisation. Climate Policy, 22(8). https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2022.2108365

Santos Ayllón, L. M., (2022) A justice and responsible research and innovation exploration of marine renewables and green hydrogen in island communities. Science Talks. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sctalk.2022.100086

Larry Ibrahim Mohammed, photo by Stina Guldbrandsen
Larry Ibrahim Mohammed, photo by Stina Guldbrandsen

Larry Ibrahim Mohammed

UiT-The Arctic University of Norway

PhD programme: Comparative Indigenous Studies

PhD project: In Pursuit of Self-Determination; Indigenous Peoples voices in search of impacts- A comparative study of renewable energy projects in Norway and Canada.
The goal of the project is to contribute to the bigger discussion on the depth of indigenous peoples' self-determination, specifically, by examining the level and impact of indigenous people's participation in renewable energy projects in Norway and Canada.

Line Lefstad
Line Lefstad

Line Lefstad

Lund University, Sweden

PhD programme: Sustainability Science

PhD project: The project aims to analyse the various opportunities, contradictions and trade-offs that characterise different imaginaries of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in future Scandinavian/Norwegian energy systems.

Marieke van der Star
Marieke van der Star

Marieke van der Star

University of Oslo (UiO)

PhD programme: Human Geography

PhD project: Residential mobility in the green compact city: class-led appropriation of urban resources.
The project researches the socio-spatial inclusiveness of low carbon urban strategies in terms of housing, mobility- and transport justice in the Greater Oslo region. The project is part of INCLUDE (socially inclusive energy transitions).

Academic publications:

Van der Star, Marieke Elisabeth & Hochstenbach, Cody (2022). Continuity among stayers: Levels, predictors and meanings of place attachment in rural shrinking regions. Journal of Rural Studies. ISSN 0743-0167. 96, s. 369–380. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2022.11.010.

Mathilde Rainard
Mathilde Rainard

Mathilde Rainard

University of Leeds

PhD project: Fairness implications of low carbon energy policies in the UK and France, an intersectional approach.
This PhD takes an intersectional approach towards justice implications of energy demand reduction policies in the housing and transport sectors in the UK and France, to generate policy recommendations for a fairer net-zero transition in the UK, with implications for France and other EU countries.

Academic publications:

Rainard, M., Smith, C. J., & Pachauri, S. (2023). Gender equality and climate change mitigation: Are women a secret weapon?. Frontiers in Climate5, 946712.

Nicol Staňková
Nicol Staňková

Nicol Staňková
Czech Republic

Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague

PhD programme: Sociology

PhD project: The PhD project examines democratic processes and perceived justice in the context of local energy projects in the Czech Republic.

Academic publications:

Macháč, J., Hekrle, M., Staňková, N., & Povolná, L. (2022). Effective communication as a necessary part of rainwater management: Exploring the practice of Czech municipalities. 2022 Smart City Symposium Prague (SCSP), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1109/SCSP54748.2022.9792563

Sýkorová, M., Tománek, P., Šušlíková, L., Staňková, N., Habalová, M., Čtverák, M., Macháč, J., & Hekrle, M. (2021). Voda ve městě: Metodika pro hospodaření s dešťovou vodou ve vazbě na zelenou infrastrukturu.

Macháč, J., Hekrle, M., Meyer, P., Staňková, N., Brabec, J., & Sýkorová, M. (2020). Cultural ecosystem services and public preferences: How to integrate them effectively into Smart City planning? 2020 Smart City Symposium Prague (SCSP), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1109/SCSP49987.2020.9133798

Shayan Shokrgozar
Shayan Shokrgozar

Shayan Shokrgozar

University of Bergen (UiB)

PhD programme: Social Science (Department of Geography and Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation)

PhD project: The project investigates the social and environmental implications of solar energy transitions in Rajasthan, India.

Academic publications:

Sareen, Siddharth., Shokrgozar, S.,(2022). Desert Geographies: Solar Energy Governance for Just Transitions. Globalizations, 1–17.

Shokrgozar, S.(2021). The Case for Degrowth Energy Technologies. Tvergastein Journal, vol 1, 94–109.

Dunlap, A., Søyland, L., & Shokrgozar, S.(2021). Editorial Introduction: Situating Debates in Post-development and Degrowth. Tvergastein, vol 1, 7–31.

Ulrik Kohl
Ulrik Kohl

Ulrik Kohl

Roskilde University, Denmark, and Malmö University, Sweden

PhD programme: Society, Space, and Technology

PhD project: Democratizing urban energy transitions. Community energy activism in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Denmark.
The PhD project explores the agency of grassroots and other energy activists, their learning processes and capacity building, and how they challenge and overcome institutional barriers, to develop community energy. The aim is to better understand the potential for democratizing and accelerating Europe’s clean energy transition through the empowerment of collective actors and their decentralized production of locally owned renewable energy.

Academic publications:

Kohl, U., & Andersen, J. (2022). Copenhagen’s Struggle to Become the World’s First Carbon Neutral Capital: How Corporatist Power Beats Sustainability. Urban Planning7(3), 230-241. [5]. https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v7i3.5327

Kohl, U. (2022). Is the Industrial Turn Killing Denmark’s Energy Cooperatives? In G. Getzinger, & F. Häller (Eds.), Conference Proceedings of the 20th STS Conference Graz 2022: Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies Verlag der Technischen Universität Graz. https://doi.org/10.3217/978-3-85125-932-2-10

Kohl, U. (2022). Vedvarende energi og demokratiske virksomheder [Renewable energy and democratic enterprises]. Erhvervsministeriet (Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, Denmark). https://em.dk/media/14625/analysetema-1-ruc.pdf

Enoksen, E. M., & Kohl, U. (2021). Dänemark. Die Rot-Grüne Einheitsliste: Links der Mitte-Links-Regierung. In C. Hildebrandt, D. Koltsida, & A. Bouma (Eds.), Left Diversity zwischen Tradition und Zukunft: Linke Parteienprojekte in Europa und ihre Potenziale (pp. 141-157). VSA Verlag. https://www.rosalux.de/fileadmin/rls_uploads/pdfs/Themen/VSA_Hildebrandt_ua_Left_diversity_Endkontrolle__00000002_.pdf

Andersen, J., & Kohl, U. (2021). The Copenhill Crisis: What Corridor Talk Can Tell About the Dark Side of Planning Energy Transitions. 1-2. Abstract from The 8th Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference, Bergamo, Italy.

Enoksen, E. M., & Kohl, U. (2021). The Red-Green Alliance: To the Left of a Centre-Left Government. In A. Bouma, C. Hildebrandt, & D. Koltsida (Eds.), Radical in Diversity: Europe's Left 2010-2020 (pp. 127-143). Merlin Press.

Vegard Solhjem Knutsen
Vegard Solhjem Knutsen

Vegard Solhjem Knutsen (board representative)

University of Agder (UiA)

PhD programme: Energy and Society

PhD project: The research project explores in the context of Norway why land-based wind power is controversial, what the driving forces behind resistance to wind power are, and how policies and planning practices can be rethought to enable a just pathway towards energy transition.

Academic publications:

Bårnås, K. S., Dahlstrand, K., & Knutsen, V. (2021). Voldsoffererstatningsordningen: Opplevd betydning av voldsoffererstatning blant mottakere. Tidsskrift for erstatningsrett, forsikringsrett og trygderett18(1), 7-32.

Societal partner profiles

Fred. Olsen Renewables 

Fred. Olsen Renewables has over the last 25 years established itself as a renewables company of significance. The company covers the whole value chain from developing to constructing and operating onshore wind farms. It is committed to developing renewable energy sources both as a sound business model as well as in genuine support of the shift to a decarbonised society. Fred. Olsen Renewables is further developing its business footprint through solar projects, hybrid projects (solar and wind in combination), and floating solar projects. It is embedded in the company’s culture to maintain a sustainable business model while minimising its own environmental footprint.  

Fred. Olsen Renewables seeks to expand and develop new energy projects and technologies in Norway and internationally, with careful consideration given to local ecology and society. The company has several projects related to onshore wind and solar energy and is currently venturing into an energy development project called HYPE, with support from the Research Council of Norway. The project will explore potential technical wind-solar energy synergies as well as operational strategies for solar installations under challenging climatic conditions in the Adger region of Norway. 

As a partner, Fred. Olsen Renewables will be a valuable contributor to the strategic direction of Empowered Futures by discussing and providing input to the educational programmes and course curricula. The company will take an active part in the PhD courses, seminars, policy roundtables, and excursions by sharing experiences, challenges and opportunities related to development of renewable energy, seen from a developer’s perspective. Fred. Olsen Renewables will also provide candidates with opportunities for internships and consider co-developing an application for a business-PhD scholarship with partnering universities.   

Fridtjof Nansen Institute 
The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy and resource management politics and law. The overall objective of FNI is to understand the underlying forces in international environmental and resource politics, and on that basis make well-founded contributions to political solutions to problems in these areas. 
FNI carries out research on the energy transition in Norway, Europe, and other world regions, and is a member of the University of Oslo’s INCLUDE research center on achieving a just energy transition. 
FNI researchers offer expertise on climate and energy policy, opposition to renewable energy projects, and global environment and climate governance. FNI, along with University of Oslo (UiO) and Rjukin Solarpunk Academy, will plan Empowered Futures’ first PhD course to be held in Spring 2023. Throughout the partnership, FNI will also contribute to policy roundtables, impact assessment workshops, communication workshops, and practica for Empowered Futures members.   


Multiconsult is one of the leading engineering consultancy firms in Norway. The firm offers multidisciplinary consultancy services to public and private clients worldwide, especially in the renewable energy sector. Multiconsult is involved in a wide range of services including strategic energy sector planning to project feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments to construction supervision and project audits and evaluations. 
Multiconsult’s involvement in the entire cycle of renewable energy projects has provided exposure to the many dilemmas faced by project developers, governments and civil society in the locations targeted for hydro, wind, solar and power transmission developments. Whilst the firm’s role is typically to generate knowledge for well-informed decision-making, it acknowledges that the professional integrity of consultants can sometimes be challenged and be subject to public scrutiny. 
Multiconsult and Empowered Futures believe that the practical experience of Multiconsult’s large team of renewable energy consultants can serve as a valuable asset to the research school. It can offer training and internships to PhD candidates and hopes to also benefit from the academic research that will be undertaken. By bringing together such a variety of stakeholders from the public, private and university sectors, Multiconsult and Empowered Futures believe that better practices can be developed, both in research and management, for a more sustainable low-carbon energy transition. 

Naturvernforbundet (Friends of the earth Norway)

Naturvernforbundet is one Norway’s largest environmental organisations. It has over 100 local teams and around 36,000 members who have committed themselves to taking better care of nature and the living environment. Both climate change and the loss of natural diversity are happening dangerously quickly, and the rapid development of renewable energies, such as bioenergy, water, and wind power often comes into conflict with natural values.  

Naturvernforbundet emphasises a reduction in energy consumption, both in Norway and globally, in order to meet the IEA's Net Zero Roadmap 1.5 C Scenario, which states that global energy use must be lower in 2050 than today. For Naturvernforbundet, a green transition is not just a transition to renewable energy, but a transition to a society with lower consumption of energy and materials. Nevertheless, Norway still has no systematic investment in energy efficiency.  

Naturvernforbundet has presented a road map for a “Fossil-fuel-free Norway” by 2040 without extensive destruction of nature for increased renewable energy production. This includes halving energy use in buildings, which will release large amounts of clean energy for other purposes, and that new infrastructure should be adapted to a zero-emissions society, such as transport being moved from road to sea and rail and prohibiting the construction of new motorways which may result in greater natural interventions and energy requirements.  

Naturvernforbundet also works to ensure that products must be suitable for repair, reuse and recycling; a functioning circular economy is essential for a large reduction in the need for energy and materials. While we wait for oil and gas operations to be gradually phased out, Naturvernforbundet promotes building alternative, less energy intensive business activities instead of increasing electrification from renewable power. As a valued partner of Empowered Futures, Naturvernforbundet will be instrumental in the forthcoming policy roundtables.  

Nordic Edge 

Nordic Edge is Norway’s official, national innovation cluster for smarter, more sustainable cities and communities. The cluster drives innovation, business development and societal change through cross-sector and cross-border collaboration. Energy transition is a vital part of this transformation, in particular the production, transformation, and distribution of energy in urban areas. 

Nordic Edge operates as a hub for year-round activities for its 120+ Norwegian members and large international network. The member base in the cluster includes small, medium, and large companies, research institutions and universities, the municipal sector, and financial institutions. Nordic Edge provides expertise within the fields of communication, co-creation, cross-sector collaboration, facilitation, workshops, and full-scale conference and exhibitions.  

Empowered Futures can help strengthen the links between members from the private sector and academia. This will aid companies in bridging the knowledge gap that occurs between everyday activities and current research. The School will also be of vital importance to the sustainable energy transition by making doctoral education more relevant for the labor market; Empowered Futures can help fill a significant gap in both the labor market and the educational programmes of Norway. Nordic Edge will be a valuable partner by both hosting and supporting various activities, including practica, policy roundtables, and internships for members.   

Rjukan Solarpunk Academy 
Solarpunk is a visual representation of ideas that communicates knowledge between academic research and art. Art can inspire differently than traditional research, and artists can help generate new ideas in these times of environmental crises. Artists are a crucial resource for imagining innovative solutions to the most urgent questions around us. 
As part of an artistic-academic collaboration with Empowered Futures, arts collective Rjukan Solarpunk Academy will organize a biennial Solarpunk Arts Festival starting from the summer of 2023. The festival will take place in the unique setting of Rjukan, home to the Sun Mirror - arguably the most famous solarpunk art piece ever made. A big part of solarpunk is using technology to improve a sustainable life. The Sun Mirror runs on solar and wind power and is thereby self-sustainable and works in harmony with nature. 
The Solarpunk Arts Festival will have four editions in the next eight years, each with a different theme derived from Empowered Futures research. In collaboration with different artists, the festival showcases the research around low-carbon energy transitions and opens up questions around sustainability in new ways. Each art piece included in the festival will originate from questions surrounding the research and therefore act as a method of communication that makes science more accessible to wider audiences. Rjukan Solarpunk Academy will also host PhD courses for Empowered Futures members. 

Sola kommune 
We are delighted to partner with Sola kommune (Sola Municipality) as part of Sola’s climate and environmental plan to address business cooperation on the green shift. Sola municipality is a national hub for the oil and gas industries, therefore it is important to build a bridge from these industries towards the green shift in the region. Sola recognises the challenges faced between rhetoric and practice and the importance of establishing a knowledge-based response. 
As part of Empowered Futures, Sola Municipality plans, amongst other things, to hold lectures on the municipality’s ongoing work related to climate and energy. Sola will also arrange internships for candidates involving local case studies related to climate and energy issues. 
Sola envisions that through cooperation with Empowered Futures, PhD education will become more relevant for the society in the Northern Jæren region, by training candidates to reconsider questions and renew understandings in the light of sustainable social development. Generating a network of competent researchers will be to the benefit of the labour market in the strong commercial municipality of Sola, as well as throughout Norway and beyond. As a valued partner, Sola kommune will organise policy roundtables and offer practica and internships to Empowered Futures members.  


Statkraft is one of Europe’s leading renewable energy companies, and globally, with investments in wind, solar, hydropower, and new energy technologies. Statkraft has been generating renewable energy for more than a century, primarily through the abundant resource of Norwegian hydropower. The Company is now committed to the shift to a de-carbonized society as well as to maintaining a sustainable business model. Over the next decade, Staktraft is determined to use its business to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, while also using its expertise to help with adaptation efforts.  

Statkraft has met numerous challenges in seeking social acceptance and environmental sustainability while managing the development and expansion of new energy technologies. Statkraft’s robust internal management system, The Statkraft Way (TSW), outlines policy and guides all actions, including social, environmental, and ethical decision-making and implementation. Dialogue with stakeholders, benefit-sharing, and sustainability are at the core of Statkraft’s way of working. Climate policies have a large impact on Statkraft, and the Company follows national, European and global climate policy development closely to assess their impact. Statkraft also invests significant resources in market analysis to have a robust basis for future investment and operation decisions. 

Statkraft’s 100+ years of experience in the Nordics developing, constructing and operating hydropower plants and over 25 years of experience with other renewables, energy services and energy trading globally, provides a wealth of research resources and industry knowledge. As a valued Empowered Futures partner, Statkraft will be instrumental in organising policy roundtables, practica, and internships for members. 

Vestland fylkeskommune 
Vestland is situated on the west coast of Norway, with a population of 630 000 throughout its 43 municipalities. Vestland’s vision is one of innovation and sustainability. It aims to continue to be an important host to value-creating businesses while being a driving force for sustainable development. 
Vestland has high climate change mitigation and adaptation ambitions on its path towards a sustainable climate and energy transformation. The decisions regarding sustainability targets on both a local and global scale must also offer a just transition. Vestland addresses the interconnected climate and nature crises accordingly. Energy transformation and climate footprint reduction actions must also ensure sustainable land use planning and conserve or reconstruct the very basis of our existence, our ecosystems. This level of complexity is new and challenges priorities on many levels. 
Vestland is an important community developer; the largest producer of renewable energy in Norway, with many businesses eager to take part in the energy transformation. The potential to produce more renewable energy is great, but challenges exist, for example in distribution. By partnering with Empowered Futures, Vestland can further develop the region in a sustainable direction where social and environmental controversies and consequences become part of the bigger picture. Candidates can look upon this as an opportunity to integrate science, regional development, and politics as a change agent towards a low-carbon society.  Members can benefit from the PhD course, policy roundtables, and internships offered by Vestland fylkeskommune throughout the partnership.   

Research School Leadership
John McNeish
John McNeish
Professor, NMBU
Academic Leader
Ingunn Andersen
Ingunn Andersen
Senior Adviser, NMBU
Administrative Leader
Neil Davey
Neil Davey
PhD Fellow & Communications Advisor
Communications Advisor

School Board (2-year term)

Private sector:

Stephen Sparkes, Statkraft
Margrethe K. Brekke, Rjukan Solarpunk Academy

Public sector:

Ståle Undheim, Sola Kommune

PhD Fellows:

Anna-Sophie Hobi, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Vegard Solhjeim Knutsen, University of Agder

University partner board members:

Mikaela Vasstrøm, University of Agder (Board Leader)
Erling Holden, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Per Gunnar Røa, University of Oslo
Håvard Haarstad, University of Bergen
Siddharth Sareen, University of Stavanger