RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017


256 Energy Geographies Postgraduate Research
Affiliation Energy Geographies Research Group
Postgraduate Forum
Convenor(s) Caitlin Robinson (The University of Manchester, UK)
Joseph Chambers (The University of Manchester, UK)
Craig Thomas (The University of Manchester, UK)
Chair(s) Caitlin Robinson (The University of Manchester, UK)
Timetable Thursday 31 August 2017, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Session abstract The need for an energy transition towards a system that is more sustainable, just and low carbon represents one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. Such a transition is required to address concerns of energy security, ensuring an energy supply that is reliable and assured, energy sovereignty, enabling communities to have greater control over energy production and supply, and to offer universal access to energy services, that are both efficient and affordable. In response to these challenges there has been a significant surge in geographical contributions to the study of energy. This burgeoning field of energy geographies is primarily concerned with the interaction between and co-evolution of the social system and energy technologies, infrastructures and resources. Energy geographers are therefore in a unique position to offer a critical perspective upon the geographies of the low-carbon energy system and the different potential energy futures that may arise (Bridge et al. 2013).This session aims to showcase the breadth of research within the postgraduate community interested in these interactions between energy, society and geography. The Energy Geographies Research Group and the Postgraduate Forum invites abstracts from postgraduates carrying out research in both the global North and South that engages with a relevant energy geographies field. Relevant fields include but are not limited to: landscapes of energy production, energy infrastructure, energy security, energy sovereignty, energy consumption and behaviour, energy poverty, community energy, energy governance, geographies of energy transitions, energy equity and justice.

The session will be composed of 10 minute presentations, followed by a discussant.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
Timescapes of solar and wind energy: Negotiating reversibility and change
Rebecca Windemer (Cardiff University, UK)
One of the key challenges of renewable energy is that unlike conventional energy sources at the end of their working life the infrastructure can be removed without leaving irreversible impacts upon the land. Planning permission for renewable energy in the UK appears to facilitate this, in that permissions are temporary, usually for a period of 25 years. However, the potential reversibility of impact says little about the actual dynamics of change and development. It also appears to lack consideration of the extent of developer responsibilities and liabilities. Existing research provides little information regarding the decision making scenario surrounding upgrading sites with new technology (repowering), increasing the life of existing developments (asset life extension) or removing developments (de-commissioning). While benefits related to the reversible land impacts of renewables are identified within the literature, there is no consideration of the changing landscape context or how this shapes the opinions of those involved.

In the UK many solar and wind farms are reaching the end of their permitted lives; thus there is a need to understand the factors influencing decision making both at the point of consent and end of life. This research aims to explore the ways in which considerations of time, place identity and the complexities of landscape change influence opinions of renewable energy infrastructure amongst developers, landowners, planners and the public. Through doing so it seeks to understand how expectations about temporality and impacts are institutionalised and addressed.
The Spatial Politics of Struggle: Labour Environmentalism and the Fight for Energy Democracy
Franziska Christina Paul (University of Glasgow, UK)
This paper engages with ‘energy democracy’ to contribute to a better understanding of how energy and energy spaces are shaped, contested and politicised through exploring how key actors are involved in shaping the spatial politics of energy transitions. Calls for energy democracy have recently been voiced by a range of actors in the global North and South and provide a powerful narrative for more democratically accountable, ecologically sustainable and socially just energy futures. Energy democracy provides a framework that potentially unites a broad actor base, including social movements, environmentalists, and labour organisations in a collective struggle against corporate, extractivist, and profit-driven energy systems. Building on qualitative fieldwork conducted with the global labour organisation ‘Trade Unions for Energy Democracy’ (TUED) and participating unions in New York City, USA, this paper explores how trade unions and labour organisations engage with issues of climate change and energy. The paper specifically engages with recent spaces of energy struggle – the frontline, the local community, the workplace – to explore the terms on which energy and climate change knowledge are understood, mediated and contested by union activists. In this context, the paper also draws on empirical materials to examine how pathways to action are framed and practiced, despite difficulties of introducing ‘green’ topics in labour contexts, and explores how progressive labour environmentalist coalitions for energy democracy are formed.
Exploring the Potential Synthesis between Urban Living Laboratories and Energy Cooperatives
Joseph Chambers (The University of Manchester, UK)
The rise of the smart city in political, planning and academic discourse has identified the apparent dichotomy in approaches to this new techno-urban development vision, with often contesting top-down and bottom-up methods being demonstrated. Many of these more bottom-up approaches come under the realm of urban living laboratories (ULL). These ULL focus on user-centric innovation that engages stakeholders of the space and provides a spatial testing area for actions related to sustainability, infrastructure, research and many other endeavours. Despite their best intentions, the powerful role of property rights and political influence can often result in the mere ‘lab-washing’ of cities, where urban elites use the ULL and ride of the coattails of innovation to attract investment. However, as a vital form of urban commons for sharing innovation and ideas, not only regionally but globally, urban labs can play a critical role in the transition to low-carbon. Recent research has noted however, that the future of ULLs may depend on the extent to which the laboratories are able to interconnect with each other, scale up and form networks, possibly leading to better governance support around these innovation practices (Voytenko et al., 2016).

With increasing attention, from government, academia and society at large, being paid towards urban energy cooperatives, this research suggests that stronger collaboration between ULL and these ‘actually existing’ sites of community innovation could help enhance both movements (Seyfang et al., 2014). Whilst occasional cases overseas evidence linking up between energy cooperatives and smart urbanism movements (Obinna et al., 2016), there is a notably void in research exploring this within a UK context. This paper has sought to fill this gap within current understanding by investigating (i) the current interconnections between ULL and urban energy cooperatives in the UK, (ii) the potential limitations and benefits between a fusion between such innovation frameworks and energy organisations and (iii) how non-governmental actors could best support such a fusion in face of current smart city development visions.
Energy Justice and the Legacy of Conflict: Assessing the Kosovo C Thermal Power Plant Project
Teresa Lappe-Osthege (The University of Sheffield, UK)
Jan-Justus Andreas (University of York, UK)
The concept of energy justice has emerged as an important theoretical and methodological tool aiding to understand challenges in the extraction, production and consumption of energy, and its societal, economic, environmental and security implications. We apply energy justice as an analytical framework to analyse the political, societal and environmental impacts of energy policies in the context of post-conflict instability. Using the Kosovo C project as a case study, a planned lignite power plant and its associated infrastructure, we utilise the three tenets of energy justice (distributional, procedural, and justice as recognition) and Sovacool and Dworkin’s (2015) eight aspects of just energy decision-making to depict the opportunities and challenges of the empirical application of energy justice in a post-conflict environment. The application of energy justice to the Kosovo case identifies the legal/regulatory and the temporal dimensions as crucial challenges to just energy policies in a context in which: (i) the lack of due process, good governance, and ongoing post-conflict tensions aggravate the societal, economic and environmental impacts of energy policies; (ii) accessibility and affordability of energy is prioritised over the promotion of sustainability; and (iii) intra- and intergenerational equity concerns take a backseat in the face of immediate state-building priorities.
Direct-load control and energy justice
Philippa Calver (The University of Manchester, UK)
This presentation presents findings from an enquiry on the use of heat pumps to provide domestic demand-side (DSR) from the perspective of social housing tenants. DSR, a proposed way of adjusting domestic electricity consumption, is seen by many as a way to overcome a number of challenges within the UK power network including balancing demand and supply to enable greater penetration of intermittent renewables as well as to reduce pressure on the grid at peak time. With the growing understanding of the shortcomings of domestic energy service provision, such as under consumption by some households, and the lack of shared access to affordable energy, it is therefore important to ask: is there an opportunity for demand-response alongside heat pumps to alleviate energy vulnerability or will this system further exacerbate it? This research presents preliminary analysis of data from semi-structured household interviews collected as part of a demand-side response project within Social Housing; the NEDO project in Greater Manchester. This large scale project, a collaboration between a number of UK and Japanese partners, has seen 500 heat pumps installed in in the Greater Manchester region. Interview questions have been developed around existing frameworks of energy justice, enabling reflections on the suitability of this form of demand-side response for the targeted population.
Kirsten Jenkins (University of Sussex, UK)