This body of work explores the socio‐techno‐environmental context of energy development in emerging economies. I use actor-oriented political ecology approaches to deconstruct case studies like that of large dam construction in northern Borneo and energy infrastructure development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Rather than purely techno-economic systems, I frame infrastructure as socio-technical systems – technological systems intertwined and co-evolving with socio-economic institutions and the surrounding social environment. When explored in this way, we see why “optimal” energy paths must consider local context, cultural politics, and the discursive dimensions of power. This is a critical perspective to acknowledge in energy planning – often considered an “apolitical” process – to create truly inclusive planning processes which prioritize environmental justice for marginalized communities.