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This paper concerns the role of smart grids comprising man-made electric power networks and their supporting information communications technology (ICT) as enablers of sustainable energy services. A proposed socio-ecological energy system (SEES) framework used to characterize the core-level subsystems (resources, users, and governance) in terms of second-level and deeper level variables is motivated by the more general multilevel nested socio-ecological system (SES) framework. Second-level and deeper level variables are introduced as a means of characterizing how sustainable a SEES is likely to be by assessing their characteristics. Given vast spatial and temporal complexities in a typical SEES, it becomes necessary to enhance the physical power network with just-in-time (JIT), just-in-place (JIP), and just-in-context (JIC) functionalities. These, in turn, support sustainable energy services by aligning temporal, spatial, and contextual characteristics of resources and users. We refer to the ICT implementation in support of these functionalities as dynamic monitoring and decision systems (DYMONDS). The tradeoffs between the ability of the SEES to ensure sustainable services and the complexity of the supporting smart grid are discussed for several representative energy system architectures.