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Justifying Amsterdam’s Transition Vision for Heat: Supporting affordability and cooperation within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer


Academic year: 2023

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Justifying Amsterdam’s Transition Vision for Heat:

Supporting affordability and cooperation within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer

Angelica Lantigua Francisco 13144324

Master’s Thesis Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) Graduate School of Social Sciences (GSSS)

University of Amsterdam

Supervisor: Dr. Igor Tempels Moreno Pessoa

20th of June 2022



First of all, I wish to thank all the participants that took the time to participate in this research, and who, through sometimes laughter and sometimes sadness, provided me with useful information to prepare this Master's thesis. I want to express my appreciation to my supervisor, that guided me through the uncertainties of the research, to my friends and family that showed nothing more than endless support, patience, and love.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all these amazing souls that, with so much love, dedication, and ambition, are working to make the Bijlmer a better place for everyone.

Thank you very much, Muchísimas gracias,

Dank jullie wel.



As part of the Dutch Climate Agreement, it has been agreed that 70 per cent of all energy will have to be renewable by 2050 (Rijksoverheid, 2022). This ambition has been formulated in the Dutch energy transition, in order to limit the negative effects of climate change as much as possible. The city of Amsterdam even plans to be natural gas-free by 2040. Due to drastic social and economic impact of the energy transition on residents, Amsterdam developed the Amsterdam's transition vision for heat, in order to promote sustainable energy practices, together with residents and other actors. Considering that marginalized communities are more vulnerable to climate change risks, the purpose of this study is to provide a better understanding of how planning policies may affect non-Dutch communities, and how these policies can integrate community-based knowledge into planning practices for a more inclusive energy transition. By using the Bijlmer as a case study, this study will determine whether existing interventions support affordability, and cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods within Hispanic communities, using Sovacool's energy justice framework. The research question is: to what extent does Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat support affordability and cooperation with neighbourhoods within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer? This investigation will be conducted through ethnographical research such as observations and in-depth interviews with people from Hispanic communities in Amsterdam South East (Bijlmer), energy experts from the municipality of Amsterdam, energy suppliers and community leaders, as well as analysing existing data and literature on the Dutch energy transition and existing policies. This study finds that the Transition Vision has applied quite some initiatives thus far in order to make the transition towards a natural gas-free society affordable for residents in the Bijlmer. Energy poverty does not appear to be a significant challenge within Hispanic communities thus far, as many residents are not (yet) directly affected by high gas prices due to fixed gas prices. In the near future, however, price fluctuations might pose a significant challenge to Hispanic communities, since marginalized communities are more susceptible to price changes.

At the same time, some decisions regarding affordability have advantages for the energy transition, while at the same time they are unfair to Hispanic communities in Bijlmer, making affordability a complex issue. Supporting cooperation and coordination within Hispanic communities also remains challenging. There is no easy access to adequate information, and Hispanics do not feel


Vision. Empirical evidence shows that factors such as discomfort, inferiority complexes, insufficient knowledge, NIMBY triads, and living in poverty cause very low levels of engagement and participation. It is common for policymakers to struggle with ensuring inclusive citizen participation in the Netherlands. Therefore, a number of recommendations are offered for policymakers and planners on how to integrate community-based knowledge from marginalized communities into planning practices to foster an inclusive energy transition. Additionally, the study includes a policy brief that provides recommendations for policy interventions that will support affordability and cooperation within Hispanic and other marginalized communities in the Bijlmer.









CHAPTER 1: Research Context ... 13

1.1. Dutch Energy Transition ... 14

1.2. Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat ... 15

1.3. Energy justice ... 16

1.4. Marginalized Communities ... 18

CHAPTER 2: Research Design ... 19


2.1.1. Unit of Analysis ... 20

2.1.2. Case study area ... 21


2.3. METHODOLOGY ... 28

2.3.1. Philosophical foundation ... 28

2.3.2. Research strategy ... 28

2.3.3. Methods ... 29

2.3.4. Data collection ... 30


3.3.6. Operationalization ... 33


CHAPTER 3: Analysis ... 41


3.2. RESULTS ... 44

3.2.1. The district-oriented approach into practice ... 44

3.2.2. Voices from the community ... 48

3.2.3. Integrating community-based knowledge for a more inclusive energy transition ... 56


3.4 LIMITATIONS ... 63




Appendix A An overview of all the interview guidelines used for this research per category ... 70

Appendix B A schematic overview of the codes applied ... 79

Appendix C Consent form ... 80

Appendix D Code of conduct for ethical considerations ... 81

Appendix E Policy brief with practical instruments for inclusive policy-making ... 82



Figure 1. Bijlmer neighbourhood and targeted gas-free implementation plans (Gemeente

Amsterdam, 2020)………..22

Figure 2. Energy justice conceptual framework by B. Sovacool (Sovacool, 2013)………24

Figure 3. The Energy Justice Cycle (Heffron, 2022)………..26

Figure 4. Conceptual model (Author, 2022)………..32

Figure 5. Overview of the total amount of interviews taken, divided by five categories (Author, 2022)………..34

Figure 6. Overview of the operationalization of the concepts from Sovacool’s principles into useful indicators, used for this study (author, 2022)………..35

Figure 7. A comparison between the principles of the Transition Vision and the energy justice conceptual framework of Sovacool (Author, 2022)………42

Figure 8. A list of all the initiatives within the Bijlmer that translate affordability and cooperation and coordination within Hispanic neighbourhoods into practice (Author, 2022)………..45

Figure 9. Overview of income group and employment status of the respondents from category 5 (Hispanic residents) (Author, 2022)………...46

Figure 10. Overview of percentages of measuring affordability and welfare within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer (Author, 2022)………49

Figure 11. Answers by respondents from category 5 to the question: who is responsible for the energy transition in the Bijlmer? (Author, 20220)………..51




Within this research, affordability is directly linked to the definition of affordability created by Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat. Within this study, when referring to affordability, this study means being able to afford, as a Hispanic citizen living in the Bijlmer, the expenses expressed in money, that are directly associated with the implementation plans of Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat.

City Deal

A City Deal is an initiative where various ministries, municipalities, knowledge institutions, community organizations and utility companies work together on an integrated approach for the various urban transition tasks for the next three years. The City Deal looks at the best possible connection between tasks such as climate adaptation, energy transition, shared mobility, a new circular economy and a healthy, nature-inclusive city.

Cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods

Within this research, cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods is directly linked to the definition created by Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat. Within this study, when referring to cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods (or simply cooperation with neighbourhoods), this study means being engaged in any form, through the WAM approach of the Municipality, and being aware (in any form) of the implementation plans of Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat, how this will look like and what this means for Hispanics in the Bijlmer in concrete terms (Over Morgen, 2020, p. 8).


Donut Deal

A Donut Deal (developed by Cocratos from Amsterdam South East, in June 2019) is a practical translation of Kate Raworth's Donut Economics. Donut Deals are local initiatives organized in order to give a neighbourhood a boost both socially and environmentally. Donut Deals involve two parties working together to address a complex social challenge, with one ecological challenge (such as climate change) and at least three social challenges (such as health, social equity, and energy).

Energy justice

This study is supported by the concept of energy justice, developed by Sovacool (2013).

Consequently, energy justice can be described as a situation in which something or someone equitably shares both the benefits and burdens that accompany the production and consumption of energy services, as well as fair representation of people and communities in energy decision- making.

Hispanic communities

'Hispanic' and 'Latino' are terms that are mainly used in the same context and have been widely utilized since the year 2000, originating in the United States (Jaksic, 2015). The term Hispanic is mostly used to refer to people from Latin American countries, sharing the common language Spanish. Though Hispanic/Latino communities are mostly associated with American populations, we can now find large Hispanic communities anywhere. Generally, these communities are associated with cultural elements such as sports, food, commercial goods (Arreola, 2004).


WAM approach

The “Make Neighbourhoods Natural Gas Free” or WAM approach, is derived from the Dutch definition of “de aanpak Wijken Aardgasvrij Maken” (WAM). This approach is set up by municipalities, in order to work together with citizens from an early stage, within specific neighbourhoods. Together, they create concrete plans that are ready for decision-making in the form of neighbourhood implementation plans. This WAM approach is supposed to take three years. The implementation will take place in phases in each neighbourhood and will take several years within a neighbourhood (Over Morgen, 2020, p. 46).



The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which was held in the UK, November 2021, was criticized for its lack of attention to science when taking action to combat climate change. “Science is used to illustrate the situation the world is facing, the need to urgently scale up ambition in all areas of climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, while acknowledging that some parties have a greater responsibility than others to tackle the problem”

(UK Government, 2021, p. 6). What decisions will policymakers make to address one of the most complex challenges facing countries today?

The city of Amsterdam plans to become natural gas-free by 2040 and is overseeing and making natural gas-free neighbourhoods, involving residents and partners as early as possible in the process, through Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat (Transition Vision) (Over Morgen, 2020).

With natural gas phasing out plans expected in the coming decades, the question posed by Kluizenaar and colleagues (2020) is how the various groups in society can be included and supported as effectively as possible. As is already known, both collective and individual interests play an important role in natural gas-free plans, such as problem awareness, biospheric value, and financial factors.

In many cases, decision-making processes are led by policymakers, who often make top-down decisions which are unknown to marginalized communities. As a result, urban planning practices can lead to exclusion from social and economic systems, as well as the lack of health and social services for marginalized communities (Rodriguez et al., 2020). Hence, it is important for planning policies to not only create inclusive policies, but also translate them to specific planning practices that are needed within a specific community. Immigrant communities, such as Hispanic communities, tend to face more injustices (Rodriguez et al., 2020). Therefore, “recognizing the challenges of engaging structurally vulnerable immigrant communities in research, as well as paying attention to power dynamics, is critical for research success” (Rodriguez et al., 2020).

Urban planners have the risk to get into a position of power in relation to the very communities they represent and serve. Thus, it is essential to incorporate practices and ideas about the energy


community initiatives, and energy suppliers (Rasch & Köhne, 2017). While this study will only be able to highlight and suggest planning practices relevant to Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer, it may serve as an inspiration for other communities elsewhere.

The goal of this study is to shed light on the challenges Hispanic communities may face during the transition to a gas-free society within the implementation plans of the Transition Vision in the Bijlmer. This study focuses only on the two main principles of the Transition Vision, which are:

affordability, and cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods. As a means to measure these two principles, this study will rely on four of the eight principles from Sovacool's energy justice conceptual framework, which will help to analyse the level of affordable and adequate consumption of energy services, as well as the level of participation and fair representation in energy decision-making. Therefore, the following main research question is:

To what extent does Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat support affordability and cooperation with neighbourhoods within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer?

To provide a coherent answer to the research question, the research question is divided up into three sub-questions, some of which have sub-questions as well:

1. How does the Transition Vision translate affordability and cooperation and coordination within Hispanic neighbourhoods into practice?

2. How does the Transition Vision relate to the perception of people from the Hispanic community?

2.1.1. To what extent is affordability a challenge within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer?

2.1.2. To what extent is cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods a challenge within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer?

2.1.3. What are the main factors influencing the perception of Hispanics in the Bijlmer regarding the Transition Vision?


3. How can community-based knowledge that Hispanic communities possess, regarding affordability and cooperation, be integrated into planning policies in order to create a more inclusive energy transition?

By using an inductive approach, this study relies heavily on qualitative data in order to establish a clear connection between the research objectives and the findings. In-depth semi-structured and open interviews, as well as official policy documents, were used for data collection. The structure of this thesis is followed by three more chapters. The first chapter will explain the context of the research, introducing the theoretical foundations by explaining the most important concepts and some related discussions and debates. Secondly, the research design will introduce the case study, the theoretical framework, the methodology and finish with a methodological reflection. The third chapter explains the analysis, and will answer all the sub-questions through the obtained findings.

This section includes a policy brief, that provides recommendations for policy interventions in order to create a more just energy transition within Hispanic and other marginalized communities in the Bijlmer, based on the case study results. This part will also bring all the findings and analysis together in the conclusion, which will be followed by a discussion, the limitations, and some suggestions for future research.



Research Context


1.1. Dutch Energy Transition

In order to reach the global goal of the energy transition, which is a complete decarbonization of the world energy system by 2050, most countries have determined their contribution to energy transformation and economic changes. “Every UN member state adopted the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015, to hold warming to ‘well below 2 °C’ and to aim to limit warming to 1.5 °C or less” (Hafner & Tagliapietra, 2020, p. 7). The decarbonization of the global energy system by 2050 has been proven feasible and is attracting growing attention in global policy debates (Hafner & Tagliapietra, 2020). Actions must be taken in order to move towards zero- carbon sources of energy, such as wind, hydroelectric, and solar. The seventh Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations is to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all (United Nations, 2016).

In order to understand and define the Dutch energy transition, it is important to understand the meaning of transition (management) in the Netherlands. The first study on transition management in the Netherlands, by Jan Rotmans and Derk Loorbach, defines it as “a gradual, continuous process of change where the structural character of a society (or a complex sub-system of society) is being transformed” (Kemp, 2010, p. 295). “Concerns about the depletion of fossil fuels, dependencies on foreign suppliers, and climate change led policymakers in the Netherlands to gradually adopt a transition approach for sustainable energy, mobility, agriculture and resource use” (Kemp, 2010, p. 298). The Dutch energy transition is characterized by “bottom-up developments and long-term planning, with the government acting as a process manager, dealing with issues of collective orientation and interdepartmental coordination” (Kemp, 2010, p. 299). In order to develop a common ambition, 7 transition platforms were made for the Dutch energy transition, which consist of (Kemp, 2010):

1. New gas

2. Green resources 3. Chain efficiency

4. Sustainable electricity supply


6. Built environment

7. Energy-producing greenhouse

“In the Interdepartmental Project directorate Energy transition (IPE) created in 2005, issues of policy coordination are being discussed and dealt with by the secretary generals of six Dutch ministries” (Kemp, 2010, p. 299). Since many actors are involved in the Dutch energy transition, such as public and private companies, as well as civic society, it makes the process complex (Ludovico et al., 2020). Privatization and liberalization of energy markets, for example, do not help with the energy transition process (Kemp, 2010). In order to achieve a low-carbon economy and a more sustainable society, there needs to be a cohesion of action that the Dutch energy transitions hyperlink network lacks (Ludovico et al., 2020). As Ludovico et al. (2020) suggest, this may be due to a lack of focus on major social issues; instead, the energy transition focuses on the regulatory aspects of the transition at a national and supranational level. Aside from the complicated nature of the Dutch energy transition, Salet (2021) claims that this is partly related to the creation of autonomous realities by market actors who act according to their own routines and often result in social and economic complications.

1.2. Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat

Amsterdam switched from city gas and coal to natural gas just over fifty years ago, and this can be considered one of the very first energy transitions in the Netherlands (Kemp, 2010). Since 1964, Amsterdam connected its homes to natural gas (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2020). Clearly, natural gas is not the sustainable solution either, which is why Amsterdam is moving towards a gas free society: the city will be natural gas-free by 2040 (Over Morgen, 2020). The Transition Vision is an urban vision of the municipality of Amsterdam that shows per neighbourhood which technology and in which period neighbourhoods will become natural gas-free. This vision gives direction to the transition to a natural gas-free Amsterdam, based on current knowledge, combined with the wishes of Amsterdam residents and partner organizations (Over Morgen, 2020). This vision has two main principles:

1. affordability

2. cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods


Amsterdam will follow the 'Make Neighbourhoods Natural Gas Free' (WAM) approach, designed by the municipality and inspired by the natural gas transition of 1964 (Over Morgen, 2020). In the case of tenants, the landlord will select a natural gas-free option, while homeowners will choose their own heat source (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2020). Throughout the city, district heating networks are being phased in at a pace that is determined by factors such as housing association planning and public space planning. There are, however, different solutions for natural gas-free within neighbourhoods, since the path to being natural gas-free is not a fixed one. Several neighbourhoods in Amsterdam have started the process of becoming natural gas-free in 2020, and the Municipality’s goal was to start with a few deprived areas, so they could learn from the implementations and keep adapting (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2020). De Kluizenaar et al. (2020) found that the transition to a natural gas-free housing stock differs according to household groups;

for example, elderly households and single households face greater difficulties than young, highly educated citizens or families with higher incomes. The difficulties can be collective, such as problem awareness and biospheric values, or may be individual, such as financial difficulties (de Kluizenaar et al., 2020).

1.3. Energy justice

The debate about the energy transition is going beyond the idea of switching from fossil fuels to sustainable sources of energy. It has been said, that planners usually think of a ‘just’ energy transition when the successful transformation from fossil energy into ‘renewable’ energy takes place (Sovacool et al., 2017). But just energy is much more than that: it is not only about the technical implementation of renewable energy, but also about “achieving equity in both the social and economic participation in the energy system” (Baker et al., 2019). Unjust renewable energy projects may arise when “communities are unable to participate in related decision-making, and when inequitable distribution of environmental and health hazards occur” (Rasch & Köhne, 2017, p. 608). Therefore, energy justice is “intimately related to environmental justice, that interrogates the relationship between marginalized groups and environmental issues” (Rasch & Köhne, 2017, p. 607). According to Heffron (2022), the “rules of the game in the energy sector are currently


human rights in response to different energy activities, and in the context of the different aims of justice” (p. 2).

With time, we can see how human rights are becoming more central to achieving energy justice.

Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, a lot of legal energy activities and interventions include relevant practices related to energy justice (Heffron, 2022). It is not only within national policy regulations, but also through increased activities by local organizations and communities (Heffron, 2022).

However, achieving energy justice has its own challenges and complexities, such as controversies over participatory arrangements, high implementation costs, and the risk of creating a new dichotomy between rich, self-sufficient neighbourhoods and poorer neighbourhoods that remain dependent on expensive networks (van de Wiel, 2018). Energy justice provides a means to better evaluate and resolve current energy related dilemmas, and the ones that may occur in the future (Sovacool & Dworkin, 2015). “Imaginations and practices of energy justice are rooted in local history and power relations, and are formed in relation to specific energy actualities” (Rasch &

Köhne, 2017, p. 613).


1.4. Marginalized Communities

Marx's meaning of 'community' has been extensively discussed over the years and plays an important role in defining what constitutes a true community (Zheng, 2020). Although Marx’s ultimate ideal for human development, is the “real community”, the definition of the concept has changed over time and “proven to be a tricky issue in the social sciences” (Zheng, 2020; Mannarini

& Fedi, 2009, p. 211). It seems that nowadays, defining the meaning of community is theoretically almost impossible but stemming from the establish consensus among social scientists, we can formulate community as “the phenomenon of multiple belongings, that is the possibility for individuals to identify themselves as members of different communities, each of them fulfilling specific needs, even contradictory ones” (Mannarini & Fedi, 2009, p. 212). Marginalized communities are described by Sevelius et al. (2020) as follows:

“Marginalized communities are those excluded from mainstream social, economic, educational, and/or cultural life. Examples of marginalized populations include, but are not limited to, groups excluded due to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, language, and/or immigration status.

Marginalization occurs due to unequal power relationships between social groups” (Borrell and Kapadia, 2021, as cited in Sevelius et al., 2020, p. 1.).

The Netherlands can be seen as a multi-ethnic society, where every ethic group has its own social and economic network. These ethnic groups are usually characterized as marginalized communities, due to their less socio-economic status (Bongers et al., 2000). In spite of the success of the Dutch "polder model", these marginalized ethnic groups are often socially excluded from Dutch society. The Bijlmer in Amsterdam is a great example where more than hundreds of different ethnic marginalized societies reside.



Research Design



2.1.1. Unit of Analysis

The unit of analysis for this research are “individual households that are part of the Hispanic community in the Bijlmer, and where the Transition Vision has (recently) been implemented or is being targeted from 2022 onwards”. Respondents will be carefully chosen based on their shared characteristics, which include a common language (Spanish), a lack of fluency with the Dutch language, and not being fully integrated into Dutch culture, according to themselves. Additionally, they will have to maintain close ties with other Hispanics in their neighbourhood. As criteria for the unit of analysis, these characteristics fulfil the requirements of a marginalized community, defined by Sevelius et al. (2020) (which are communities that are not fully integrated in the dominated culture of the country of resident, and have the same ethnic backgrounds, maintaining close ties with each other). Additionally, the unit of analysis was specifically selected in the Bijlmer, an area with a large number of ethnically marginalized communities as mentioned in the previous chapter. Because the focus of this study is on natural gas-free implementation plans, residents who are responsible for their own gas consumption must be included in the process.

Therefore, individuals with a degree of responsibility in their household must be considered within the unit of analysis.

Due to the large number of undocumented immigrants living in the Bijlmer, it is difficult to find accurate statistics about the total number of Hispanics living there (Abdou, 2017). However, immigration from Latin America to the Netherlands has steadily increased, especially since the 1990s (Gleichman, 2021). According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS) (2011), there were approximately 2.2 million immigrants in 2021, of whom 3.6 per cent were from Latin America (excluding Surinam, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba) (CBS, 2021). The most common reason Hispanics immigrate to The Netherlands is family migration (54.4 per cent), followed by study (16.8 per cent) and work (14.4 per cent) (CBS, 2011, p. 5). Since the author of this thesis is a native Spanish speaker and a member of the Hispanic ethnic group herself, selecting Hispanic communities as the unit of analysis was a practical and natural choice.


2.1.2. Case study area

A rich cultural history can be found in Amsterdam's South East part, also known as the Bijlmer.

This part of the city, was originally developed in the 1960s to serve as a suburban oasis for middle- class families, but did not reach its objective (Abdou, 2017). As a result, the Bijlmer became the oasis for “incoming migrants from the former colony of Surinam, coinciding with the liberation of Surinam from colonial rule in 1975” (Abdou, 2017, p. 192). As immigration increased, the Bijlmer became a home for many immigrants from around the world. According to Abdou (2017), the Bijlmer is often described as a failed urban planning project owing to cheap and poorly maintained housing units, and its large number of social housing. Class segregation in social housing has often resulted in the segregation of ethnic communities (Abdou, 2017). The Bijlmer became known as the 'black ghetto' after crime and unemployment rates increased from the 1980s. A high concentration of low-income households have been found to be associated with the Bijlmer neighbourhood, where energy injustice is more likely to occur (Zandvliet, 2012). Despite the declining crime rate and the fact that it is now just as safe as any other neighbourhood in Amsterdam, most articles about the Bijlmer still bear this negative stigma (Pinkster et al., 2019).

While numerous investments have been made in the Bijlmer in recent years, such as place making initiatives and providing space for multicultural initiatives, residents remain difficult to reach (Milikowski, 2021). Therefore, the Bijlmer is generally considered to be a deprived neighbourhood. In order to learn about potential obstacles, Amsterdam decided to start implementing gas-free plans in some deprived areas, such as the Bijlmer (Over Morgen, 2020). As the Bijlmer also contains one of the highest concentrations of Hispanic communities in the city, this became the best choice for the case study area. Figure 1 shows the natural gas-free initiatives that the municipality will start implementing between 2022 and 2032 in the Bijlmer (Over Morgen, 2020). Within this area, we can also find the highest concentration of City Deals.


Figure 1. Bijlmer neighbourhood and targeted gas-free implementation plans (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2020)



The theoretical framework of this study is supported by the concept of energy justice, created by Sovacool. Professor Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex Business School, introduced the concept of moral philosophy and ethical responsibility to the study of energy justice (Bombaerts et al., 2020). Energy justice is described by Sovacool and Dworkin (2015) as follows:

“The concept of ‘‘energy justice’’ gives us a way to better assess and resolve energy related dilemmas. We define an energy-just world as one that equitably shares both the benefits and burdens involved in the production and consumption of energy services, as well as one that is fair in how it treats people and communities in energy decision-making” (p. 441).

According to Guayo (2020), “the oil crises of the 1970s focused attention on questions of equity and intergenerational justice in relation to allocation of scarce resources as well as raising the profile of issues of affordability and fuel poverty” (p.14). Despite the fact that the current utilization of energy is still in its infancy, it is now universally recognized that traditional fossil energy will be replaced by new sustainable sources of energy (Bombaerts et al., 2020). In recent years, energy justice has become a major interdisciplinary energy research topic (Heffron, 2022).

The reason is related to “the environmental aspects of energy production and environmental laws and regulations, as there is a general agreement that the concept of energy justice developed out of earlier debates about environmental and climate justice” (Guayo, 2020, p. 31).

Professor Sovacool created a framework that tries to alter the values underpinning energy decisions, based on the critiques of energy policies which are, according to him, left to the technical market and economists (Sovacool, 2013). This framework tries to “minimize and eliminate various energy threats and injustices confronting countries and communities” (Sovacool, 2013, p. 12). As the goal of this study is to shed light on the challenges and injustices Hispanic communities may face during energy interventions, which are part of national energy policies, this framework aligns very well with the goal of this study. Additionally, the principles within Sovacool's framework align with the two main principles of the Transition Vision, which enabled the researcher to operationalize the concepts into coherent indicators. The eight key principles, in which the


framework is centred, are defined as follows in the conceptual framework, including related challenges, solutions that promote them, and related case studies (Sovacool, 2013):

Figure 2. Energy justice conceptual framework by B. Sovacool, including their challenges and some case study analysis (Sovacool, 2013)

This study will use the energy justice conceptual framework in order to understand energy justice as a decision-making tool in the context of the Dutch energy transition. More specifically, it will analyse the challenges associated with the implementation plans of the Transition Vision in order to find out to what extent this vision supports affordability, and cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer. In chapter ten of Sovacool (2013), the eight principles and their conceptualizations are explained in greater detail, helping to identify the ones pertaining to the Transition Vision. The principles affordability and responsibility have been used to conceptualize the first main principle of the Transition Vision: affordability, as they are directly linked with its meaning within the Transition Vision. With affordability, Sovacool (2013) understands “stable prices (minimal volatility) as well as equitable prices that do not require lower-income households to expend disproportionately larger shares of their income on essential


measure affordability. Sovacool (2013) defines responsibility as a task that “nations, governments, and current generations have to protect the natural environment and minimize the production of negative externalities, or energy-related social and environmental costs, and should pay to fix the problem (the so-called “polluter pays principle”) (p. 223). “One way to adhere to the principle of responsibility is to implement ecosystem payment schemes” (p. 223). Ecosystem-based payment schemes promote the preservation of natural resources while reducing energy-related social and environmental costs. In contrast to Sovacool's national approach to the concept of responsibility, this study examines it at the neighbourhood level. Therefore, national ecosystem payment schemes are translated into energy subsidies, a strategy which is commonly used to stimulate local responsibility. As a result, the availability of fair and adequate energy subsidies (responsibility) is also used to measure affordability.

The principles information and intergenerational equity have been used to conceptualize the second main principle of the Transition Vision: cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods. According to Sovacool (2013), information refers to “having access to high- quality information about energy and the environment through "good governance", transparent decision-making processes, and fair representation in energy decision-making for all” (p. 12, p.

221). Consequently, access to high-quality information via prior informed consent (procedural justice) for energy projects and the presence of fair representation in energy decision-making have been used as indicators to measure cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods.

Intergenerational equity is defined by Sovacool (2013) as "fair access to energy services, such as small-scale renewable energy technologies used in homes, which will increase the accessibility of energy and meet intergenerational equity obligations" (p. 222). This is translated into community- based adaptation plans (other words for small-scale renewable energy technologies used in homes), and have as well been used as indicators to measure cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods. Figure 6 shows a schematic representation of how the concepts from Sovacool's principles have been operationalized into useful indicators specific to this study. Despite this framework focusing on eight principles, only four are being used in this study. Research on how availability, due process, prudence, and intragenerational equity have an impact on marginalized communities, will broaden the scope of this study significantly. As none of these other four principles are the main focus of the Transition Vision, they are not included in this study.


In order to break out of our current global energy system, we first need to recognize the fundamental injustice of it, take responsibility for it, and then begin a process of correction and rehabilitation, whereas this framework (figure 2) can be a possible first step (Sovacool, 2013).

Heffron (2022) created an energy justice cycle, based on Sovacool’s principles, “which aims to highlight how energy activities of the energy life-cycle are intertwined with the forms of justice and can contribute to the protection of human rights” (p.6). This cycle can be applied to practical energy interventions in our society.

Figure 3. The Energy Justice Cycle (Heffron, 2022)


Bombaerts et al. (2020) propose a “holistic perspective on energy justice that is inspired by the idea of the community, which may shed some light on global issues of energy justice, since energy is not just a matter of individual rights and responsibilities, but also of collective responsibilities”

(p. 217). Therefore, “including the concept of community within energy justice or policy-making will arise possible solutions to energy justice from the perspective of a community (Bombaerts et al., 2020, p. 226).


2.3. METHODOLOGY 2.3.1. Philosophical foundation

As a guide for conducting this research, the author uses a set of beliefs that serve as the basis for this study. They can be described as a combination of critical theory and social constructivism. On the one hand, the study aims to critically analyse a certain phenomenon, namely the construction of urban policies and their influence on the lives of residents within a marginalized community.

By analysing the gas-free implementation plans ant its affordability and level of cooperation, it aims to bring to light what is already in place and how this could be improved, if necessary. On the other hand, the study also aims to understand how urban policies are perceived by a community and investigate which meanings are attached to the Transition Vision, as well as what factors may influence it.

2.3.2. Research strategy

This study will be conducted according to a qualitative framework using grounded primary and secondary data, as well as an inductive approach within qualitative research, as the goal is to identify new insights into the relationship between energy affordability and cooperation and coordination within Hispanic neighbourhoods and the Transition Vision. In this case, the case study method will be employed, as the “case study method is introduced by Sovacool et al. (2018) as one of the main dominant research methods within energy social science, and because they enable a researcher to focus in-depth on a “case” and to retain a holistic and real-world perspective”

(Hazrati and Heffron, 2021, p. 5). In addition to interviews, existing data and written sources regarding the Dutch energy transition (through newspaper articles, websites, reports, annual reports, speeches, policy documents, plans, etc.) will be reviewed. The unit of analysis will be studied from a variety of perspectives and from a variety of data sources in order to perform triangulation. Aside from participating in and observing residents' sustainable energy practices, in- depth semi-structured and open interviews, as well as document analysis will be conducted. This will allow the author to become more familiar with the cultural expressions of the residents of this community through active participation. In order to reach theoretical saturation, the researcher conducted 18 qualitative interviews within Hispanic communities, and additionally 11 semi- structured and structures interviews with energy experts, policy advisers, (Hispanic) community


2.3.3. Methods

This study seeks to shed light on hidden feelings and complexities, as well as the different perceptions regarding the Transition Vision within marginalized communities. Because marginalized communities are often hard to reach, their voices typically remain unknown, which is why this study will primarily employ qualitative methods. “Qualitative methodology aligns with interpretivst, social constructivist, critical, and poststructuralist research paradigms, and provides the ability to delve in-depth into complexities and processes” (Ryder, 2018, p. 270). Most of the interviews with residents from the Hispanic communities are in-depths interviews, as the goal here is to understand certain feelings and interpretations, but also gain some facts about the respondent’s gas usage and expenses. Feelings, interpretations and desires are difficult to measure though another method, and therefore the most logic choice for this research is through ethnography, combining interviews and observations.

According to Ryder (2018), “climate adaptation research has been largely confined to technical expertise, resulting in the absence of nuanced and diverse social science studies” (p. 267).

“Therefore, the underlying social factors and the ways in which energy actors and organizations reproduce the status quo (which further contributes to climate change) are frequently overlooked and taken for granted (Ryder, 2018, p. 267). Through ethnography, the study aims at revealing hidden processes of energy justice, such as forms of inclusion or exclusion, that rarely show up in statistical data. Therefore, ethnography would be a valuable tool to better understand the in which way the city is governed and planned.

The sampling method used in this study, is purposeful random sampling. As most of the Hispanic residents living in the study area (Bijlmer) are currently being involved with the implementation plans of the Transition Vision, whether this is conscious or unconscious, it is not relevant to reach participants equally from different neighbourhoods, and can therefore be randomly selected, as long as they meet the requirements of the unit of analysis. With a purposeful sampling strategy within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer, the researcher is able to reach the unit of analysis more quickly, since it is a relatively difficult community to reach. As a way to also reach participants who are not already informed and engaged in this field (and are also willing to share some personal and sensitive information with the researcher), most of the selected participants


have been approached through Hispanic community organizations that already exist and work with Hispanics in the Bijlmer and that they trust.

2.3.4. Data collection

As the Transition Vision is the most important existing document that is aligned with all the gas- free implementation plans within the city, this has been the most studied document within this study. It has been compared with national policy documents on energy related policies as well as background information from the municipality of Amsterdam to understand its visions. The combination of some publications and in-depth interviews with local executers working for the municipality provided a lot of insight into how these policies are carried out. Besides this, critical literature reviews were used around the topic of energy justice and energy justice within communities.

Through some organizations the researcher was able to not only find participants from Hispanic communities, but also some community experts, local executers, Hispanic community gatekeepers and policy officers from the municipality that are directly working with the Transition Vision. A certain level of trust between the researcher and participants is essential, as the unit of analysis is a marginalized community that is difficult to reach, living in a deprived area. That is why the participants have been (purposively) selected through a couple of organizations that are working in the Bijlmer:

1. Some foundations that are specialized in helping and offering some sort of support to Spanish-speaking communities, and/or specifically Hispanic communities such as the foundations: Veni Cultura, ProFor, Los Latinos and Casa Migrante, and Feduh

2. Some organizations that are actively participating in gas-free plans, through City Deals or private initiatives such as Groene Hub

Besides reaching out to these organizations, the researcher also actively participated in some activities in order to better observe the unit of analysis through activities that were currently happening in the Bijlmer. This also helped to get closer to the community, and gain better


1. The kick-off meeting of one of the campaigns from Groene Hub “Van het Russisch gas af’’, campaigning to stop using Russian gas and buying other alternatives such as electric heating panels, which was held on March 4th

2. Joining the open information evening from the foundation Los Latinos, in order to observe the topics that are being addressed by Hispanic members of that foundation, which was held on March 31st

3. Offering volunteer work to Groene Hub regarding the campaigns about gas-free neighbourhoods which took place during March, April and May

4. The online webinar “Wijs op weg naar brede participatie” from the program natural gas- free neighbourhoods, in collaboration with the Dutch nature and environment federations and the European Climate Foundation, about how to execute the plans from Dutch transition visions for heat, which was held on April 5th

3.3.5. Conceptual Model

To ensure this research will result into a coherent study, the researcher first created a conceptual model, as illustrated in figure 4, which aims to measure the way in which an inclusive energy transition can be achieved by integrating community based knowledge from Hispanic marginalized communities into planning policies (such as the Transition Vision). Within this conceptual model, it is argued that if the Transition Vision integrates community based knowledge from marginalized communities into planning policies, it can lead to a more inclusive energy transition.


Figure 4. Conceptual model (Author, 2022)

To understand energy justice in the context of the Dutch energy transition, this conceptual model incorporates Sovacool's energy justice conceptual framework, validating the two main principles of the Transition Vision. The input (red box) from this study refers to the conceptual framework of Sovacool in the form of a tool to measure the two main principles of the Transition Vision. This information allows us to validate whether the Transition Vision supports affordability, as well as cooperation and coordination within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer, in order to create a more inclusive energy-just world. As a validation tool, Sovacool’s framework was chosen because energy justice is a basic concept for inclusive energy decision-making (Bombaerts et al., 2020).

The study area (purple boxes) refer to existing planning policies and interventions from the Transition Vision, as well as community-based knowledge from marginalized communities, in this case Hispanic communities. The purpose of the study area is to provide a better understanding of how current planning policies may affect marginalized communities, as well as providing


recommendations on how community-based knowledge could be integrated into the Transition Vision to result into a more inclusive energy transition (yellow box).

As an ideal inclusive energy transition will always be an ongoing process, the input, study area, and result all seem to be part of a circular process. As communities adapt to changing conditions, community-based knowledge will always change over time. As a result, it is important to reevaluate policies continuously by analysing the current implementation plans and their effects on society, such as by assessing the level of energy justice.

3.3.6. Operationalization

This research started with an extended list of grounded literature reviews about policy documents on the Dutch energy transition and specifically the Transition Vision (including the locations where it has been implemented), as well as a grounded literature review on the concepts of energy justice and Sovacool’s conceptual framework. This gave the researcher a better perspective on the planning policies that Amsterdam is currently working with. Although these documents gave a clear overview of the existing policies, the actual implementation plans were not specifically mentioned. Within the Transition Vision it is also stated that the reader should take into account that: “In many parts of the city, the Transition Vision follows an area-oriented and neighbourhood- based approach, which is why different solutions are possible per neighbourhood and therefore the plans are not fixed” (Over Morgen, 2020, p. 17). That is why, in order to answer the first sub- question:

1. How does the Transition Vision translate affordability and cooperation and coordination within Hispanic neighbourhoods into practice?

it was needed to do observations and find out which plans are being implemented in certain neighbourhoods within the study area, as this differs. Through the organization Groene Hub, the researcher gathered a lot of information about plans that are being implemented in the Bijlmer.

Through several observations and talking to people in the neighbourhood, the researcher found out that there are several organizations that are chosen by the municipality to output specific plans in order to get affordability and cooperation with neighbourhoods, which are at the moment: WOON!


environment such as housing rules, renovations in the area, housing prices and service costs.

Besides them, the researcher was able to find a lot of associations for house owners and tenants (VVE’s), which are legal entities that represent the common interest for house owners and tenants in The Netherlands. They are responsible for the maintenance of the entire buildings and are usually funded by the municipality for specific projects, such as several gas-free implementation plans.

After having conducted all the observations, the researcher continued with identifying all the stakeholders and parties involved within the Transition Vision, prior to creating the interview guidelines. Due to the several parties involved, the researcher first divided the possible respondents into 5 categories as shown in figure 5, in order to get a clear picture of which party can provide what type of information in order to answer the research question(s).

Category 1 Category 2 Category 3 Category 4 Category 5


Policy advisers, directly working with the Transition Vision within the

Municipality of Amsterdam

Community experts

Experts that are currently working with the Transition Vision within the Bijlmer

Local executors

Local agencies executing

implementation plans for the Transition vision, such as housing cooperations, and VVE’s in the Bijlmer

Hispanic community gatekeepers Community leaders from foundations working directly with Hispanics residing in the Bijlmer


Residents from the Bijlmer that are part of the Hispanic community, and where the Transition Vision has (recently) been implemented or is being targeted from 2022

2 interviews 4 interviews 3 interviews 2 interviews 18 interviews

Figure 5. Overview of the total amount of interviews taken, divided by five categories (Author, 2022)

One of the most important categories is category 5, which will provide comprehensive data from the Hispanic community. However, categories 1 and 2 provided useful information about the creation of the Transition Vision, the reasons for its creation, and its (initial) goals. Moreover, it shed some light on how this vision is perceived, as well as some of the challenges it faces today.

Respondents from category 3 were particularly useful to answer sub-question 1 since these are the respondents that are currently carrying out the natural-gas free plans at the neighbourhood level.

The fourth category offered some insight into the Hispanic communities in Bijlmer, their


All the categories combined provided a holistic overview of the Transition Vision and how it is perceived by different actors, but specifically by the Hispanic community in the Bijlmer. This gave the researcher a good overview of which type of questions should be asked to the respondents, as their perception differs per category.

In order to prepare all the interviews, the researcher first operationalized the eight principles based on Sovacool’s framework, in order to be able to come up with core indicators that will be useful for the interview guidelines. This study focuses only on the two main principles of the Transition Vision (affordability, and cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods), which is why the researcher only operationalizing four of the eight concepts of Sovacool’s framework. As a result, the following elements that are being studied, listing Sovacool’s principles into concepts, the indicators and the way of measuring are shown in figure 6.

Figure 6. Overview of the operationalization of the concepts from Sovacool’s principles into useful indicators, used for this study (author, 2022).


After having the correct interview guidelines, indicators and list of useful respondents, the researcher continued with approaching the right respondents and conducting all the 29 interviews.

Through interviews from several Hispanics, experts and policy documents, the researcher was able to identify the specific plans that are currently being implemented, related to affordability and cooperation with neighbourhoods within Hispanic communities. Appendix A provides an overview of all the interview guidelines used for this research, per category. Luckily, this went quite smooth, as the researcher took an active approach in connecting with the communities and active actors in the Bijlmer. The researcher also had the opportunity to give a short radio interview (in Spanish), through an Amsterdam-based radio station in the Bijlmer (El Vacilón Musical Amsterdam Latino), that caters to Spanish speakers (especially Hispanics) in order to raise awareness of this topic and explain the future plans of the Transition Vision. Additionally, the researcher actively approached Hispanic residents from the Bijlmer to reach out to her if they were willing to talk with her regarding her current research. Within this period of actively looking for respondents, the researcher started interviewing some energy experts, urban stakeholders, urban planners and community leaders to get familiar with the activities within the neighbourhoods.

Through them, she easily got connected to Hispanics in the Bijlmer and focused for three weeks fully on interviewing residents. During all this time, she also took the role of observer while joining bottom-up initiatives from the community or attending participation meetings, as mentioned before in section 2.3.4. (data collection). All these interviews and observations led to answering the second sub-question (divided by three smaller questions):

2. How does the Transition Vision relate to the perception of people from the Hispanic community?

2.1. To what extent is affordability a challenge within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer?

2.2. To what extent is cooperation and coordination with neighbourhoods a challenge within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer?

2.3. What are the main factors influencing the perception of Hispanics in the Bijlmer regarding the Transition Vision?

Respondents from Hispanic communities (category 5) were particularly useful in answering this


Additionally, respondents from category 4 were extremely helpful in providing a general overview of the history and characteristics of Hispanics in the Bijlmer. By analysing these answers, the correct data was obtained for question 2.3 to understand what factors might affect the perception of the Transition Vision. This sub-question was added later, as these factors appeared to play a significant role and came up repeatedly during the interviews.

The last sub-question:

3. How can community-based knowledge that Hispanic communities possess, regarding affordability and cooperation, be integrated into planning policies in order to create a more inclusive energy transition?

was obtained from different sources. Through grounded literature review on the topic of energy justice, energy transition and energy policies within communities, the researcher was able to identify the benefits of adapting urban policies by adding community-based knowledge (Verbong

& Loorbach, D, 2012). Even the Transition Vision itself mentions the importance of adding community-based knowledge through close citizen involvement to improve the Dutch energy transition (Over Morgen, 2020, p. 46). Further, the researcher asked every single respondent what they thought needed to be adjusted or changed to make affordability and cooperation within Hispanic communities more successful. The next chapter, provides the answer to this last question, along with a policy brief that may contain useful suggestions for policy-makers and urban planners on how to integrate community-based knowledge into planning policies.

After conducting all the interviews, the researcher continued to analyse all the data. The analysis was conducted using a thematic framework. Using the program ATLAS.ti, the data obtained from the interviews was translated into key themes. This program allowed the researcher to identify key themes based on the concepts included in the operationalization. Through an open coding process, this generated an extensive coding list with all the significant themes. Through axial coding, these themes were reduced, and some related ones were merged together. In the last phase of selective coding, the researcher was able to select the final themes (codes) that represent the indicators and concepts for this research. A schematic overview of these themes can be found in appendix B.


The interviews were all recorded and successfully imported into ATLAS.ti. This made the coding process much easier for the researcher. All respondents were willing to give permission for recording due to a high level of trust between them and the researcher. The used consent form for all participants can be found in appendix C. To get the best and most complete recordings, the researcher always conducted the interviews online or inside a place familiar and trustful to the respondent, with little or no background noise. As the interviews were conducted in three different languages (Spanish, Dutch, and English), the coding process was sometimes challenging.

Respondents sometimes used different languages within the same interview. This had to do with the fact that some terms and expressions within this theme, are only used in Dutch such as

“Transitievisie warmte (Transition Vision)”, “warmtenetten (heat networks)”, and “Wijken Aardgasvrij Maken (WAM) aanpak” (Make Neighbourhoods Natural Gas Free' (WAM approach)”, to name a view. As Dutch municipalities always communicate formally (e.g. through letters) in Dutch, this has resulted in residents sometimes speaking both Spanish and Dutch at the same time. As the researcher is fluent in both languages, this did not hinder the coding phase in interpreting the data correctly.

During the selective coding process, it appeared that some common characteristics were often repeated by the respondents of category 5 (Hispanics). These characteristics were linked with factors that could influence the perception of Hispanics towards the Transition Vision. As these factors were identified by the researcher at the final stage of the analysis, they have been given a place within the research (as this answers the sub-question 2.3) but they do not make up a large part of the overall research. However, they were useful to exemplify certain statements and some influential factors that may also be relevant or present in other marginalized communities, as this aligns with some findings from the literature of Bongers et al. (2000).


To conclude, all the operationalized sub codes, were finally merged into one of the 2 main principles (affordability and cooperation and coordination), and through these concepts, this research was successfully able to analyse and give answer to all the sub-questions, and finally the main research question:

To what extent does Amsterdam’s transition vision for heat support affordability and cooperation with neighbourhoods within Hispanic communities in the Bijlmer?

The next chapter will give an analytical overview of the answers to all the (sub)questions, and will bring the main conclusions of this study together at the end of the chapter.



For this study, the researcher had to deal with sensitive and location-specific data, such as the specific living area of the residents. Hereby, people may have the risk of reidentification. In order to decrease the risk of reidentification, this study will strictly use anonymization, so participants cannot be identified when the data is used or when the findings are published (Verloo & Bertoloni, 2020). In order to protect the respondent's privacy, the researcher will only use their data after they have officially consented by signing an informed consent form (Appendix C). It is important to ensure confidentiality of participant data, but one can also argue that this limits the use of data in ethnographic research. “The need to protect human subjects in research in unarguable, but it ‘limits both subjects and researchers by confining all to an analytical level that closes down possibilities in the relation between self and other” (Avery, 2019, p. 7, as cited in Simpson, 2011).

This study lacks representative information about other neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, as the study location (Bijlmer) shows specific characteristics that are not representative of the whole city, like the presence of low income residents (Zandvliet, 2012). Therefore, the results are difficult to generalize to a larger population, and this may lead to skewed data. However, this study does not try to generalize the findings to other marginalized communities, but rather emphasizes the risks that marginalized communities generally face and gives a voice to these communities. The research has demonstrated, by way of the amplified presentation of this chapter (research design), that the findings are consistent with the raw data that has been collected and conceptualized.






When comparing the goals and values from the Transition Vision, it can be said that they align very well with the meaning of energy justice as stated by Sovacool. On page 19 and 20 from the Transition Vision are the leading principles stated for the transition towards a gas-free city. These eight principles can be linked with some of Sovacool’s principles (figure 2).

Principles from the Transition Vision Principles from Sovacool’s energy justice conceptual framework

1. A gas-free city as a pillar for a sustainable Amsterdam

Intragenerational equity

2. Working together towards a natural gas-free Amsterdam


3. Careful and transparent information provision Information

4. Realistic and planable Availability

5. Affordable Affordability

6. A reliable heat supply Intergenerational equity

7. Cooperation between parties Due process

8. A liveable Amsterdam in transition Responsibility

Figure 7. A comparison between the principles of the Transition Vision and the energy justice conceptual framework of Sovacool (Author, 2022).

The Transition Vision states that going forward with a just transition is a priority, and that citizens play just as much of a role as the municipality. Nevertheless, it appears most of the plans in the Transition Vision have already been decided and written down by policy advisers (who have been advised by scholars and technical experts). Among the most important elements that have been planned from the beginning is the verification of which are the best sustainable heating solutions (e.g. heat networks, heat pump or all-electric) in a certain area of the Bijlmer (Figure 1) (Over Morgen, 2020). According to a respondent from category 1, this has been done in order to pre- calculate the estimated costs. One of the respondent, from category 3, working for the agency



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