This research examines the societal impacts of varying energy policy approaches and the progress of the energy transition toward a low carbon energy-based regime internationally. Using indicators relevant to energy policy and the energy transition, five critical social equity impacts of environmental improvement, health, employment, participation, and energy cost are investigated from the viewpoint of an ‘equitable’ energy transition. We investigate the correlation between quantitative social equity impacts and the shift toward new renewable energy-based electricity (i.e., wind, photovoltaic, geothermal, tidal, biomass etc.) from 1990 to 2015, for 99 nations with differing development levels, energy resources and policies. We find that increased levels of new renewable energy deployment generally accompany social equity improvement, however geography, national income level and complementary energy policies are also important. Our results highlight specific issues for developing nations, whereby electricity needs are often met by fossil fuels prior to the large-scale penetration of renewables. These nations enjoy short-term social equity benefits, at the risk of long-term negative social equity outcomes. This study's holistic evaluation of energy transitions and social equity outcomes could be used as an input to proactive policy development contributing to the realization of a more equitable energy transition.
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