Abstract: In the field of urban climate policy, heat production and demand are key sectors for achieving a sustainable city. Heat production has to shift from fossil to renewable energies, and the heat demand of most buildings has to be reduced significantly via building retrofits. However, analyses of heat transition still lack its contextualization within entangled urban politico-economic processes and materialities and require critical socio-theoretical examination. Asking about the embeddedness of heat transition within social relations and its implications for social justice issues, this article discusses the challenges and opportunities of heat transition, taking Berlin as an example. It uses an urban political ecology perspective to analyze the materialities of Berlin’s heating-housing nexus, its politico-economic context, implications for relations of inequality and power, and its contested strategies. The empirical analysis identifies major disputes about the future trajectory of heat production and about the distribution of retrofit costs. Using our conceptual approach, we discuss these empirical findings against the idea of a more just heat transition. For this purpose, we discuss three policy proposals regarding cost distribution, urban heat planning, and remunicipalization of heat utilities. We argue that this conceptual approach provides huge benefits for debates around heat transition and, more generally, energy justice and just transitions.
Keywords: Berlin; energy justice; energy retrofitting; green gentrification; heat transition; just transition; low-carbon policy; urban metabolism; urban political ecology