Of Actors, Cities and Energy Systems: Advancing the Transformative Potential of Urban Electrification

Patricia Romero-Lankao, Alana Wilson, Joshua Sperling, Clark Miller, Daniel Zimny-Schmitt, Benjamin Sovacool, Chris Gearhart, Matteo Muratori, Morgan Bazilian, Daniel Zund, Stan Young, Marilyn Brown, Doug Arent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus Citations


The electrification of transportation and the integration of electric vehicles (EVs) with buildings connected to clean grids has been touted as one of the key solutions to the global decarbonization challenge. Cities are on the frontlines of current and future electrification, as they depend on and drive electricity generation, distribution, and use. City actors also occupy a central role in the actions to enable electrification to support energy transitions in efficient, equitable, environmentally sound, and resilient ways. Currently, however, research and development on the interactions between actors, cities and energy systems is predominantly conducted in disciplinary siloes. This topical review analyzes the transformational potential of urban electrification. It focuses on efforts to electrify transportation and integrate EVs with buildings connected to a clean grid. We find that actions in these area are driving change; they are adopted by wealthier populations and on an experimental basis by specific communities. Their larger-scale growth is constrained by institutional, behavioral, and infrastructural factors. We also find that existing siloed disciplinary approaches are often incompatible with advancing holistic research. To achieve that, divergent communities of scholars need to come together to integrate their research and create broader perspectives. Through incorporation of the social sciences, these perspectives need to consider the societal limits and potentials brought to bear by human behavior and decision making. Only then can urban electrification be understood as the empirically rich and socially complex topic that it is. And only with this understanding will innovations and smart policy actions be able to tap into the transformational potential of urban electrification.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 032002
Number of pages15
JournalProgress in Energy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©2021 IOP Publishing Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-77821


  • Actions
  • Buildings
  • Clean grid
  • Energy systems
  • Energy transitions
  • Transportation
  • Urban electrification


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