RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

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377 New Energy Spaces – Conceptualizing the geographical political economy of energy transitions (2)
Affiliation Energy Geographies Research Group
Convenor(s) Ludger Gailing (Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Germany)
Gavin Bridge (Durham University, UK)
Chair(s) Gavin Bridge (Durham University, UK)
Timetable Friday 01 September 2017, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 207
Session abstract The session examines the spatial organization of energy transitions from a wide range of conceptual and theoretical perspectives. The concept of “new energy spaces” refers not only to spatial aspects of infrastructures like power plants and grids. Instead it also points to energy governance (supranational, national, urban, regional), the formation of energy landscapes, aspects of resource production and consumption, and the shifting relations between energy policies and energy industries. Energy transitions research is often accused of failing to explain how different spatial contexts matter and treating places merely as locations in which transitions happen. The intricate relations between spaces and energy transitions, as well as the multiple ways in which space and energy infrastructures constitute each other, are indicative of the value to be derived from conceiving energy transitions as an important geographical issue.
A key objective of the session to gain a deeper understanding of how the spatiality of energy transitions can be conceptualized. Contributions to this panel will assess the benefits (and shortcomings) of specific theoretical or conceptual approaches for the understanding of energy transitions. Suggested topics include the following approaches
• The political economy of energy transitions
• Conceptualizing the socio-materiality of energy in relational terms as socio-technical configurations
• The TPSN-framework or related concepts in the field of sociospatial relations concerning the dimensions of territory, place, scale and network,
• The governance of energy transitions
Linked Sessions New Energy Spaces – Conceptualizing the geographical political economy of energy transitions (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
The political and material construction of low-carbon transitions: the (non-)diffusion of district energy systems in Alberta (Canada) and Ile-de-France (France)
Aida Nciri (University of Calgary, Canada)
Cities emit approximately 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. District energy systems (DES) produce and deliver heat from a central heating plant to residential, commercial, and/or industrial buildings. DES are often presented as a means to reduce GHG emissions in cities.

Since the mid-2000s there has been growing interest in the Paris (Ile-de-France) metropolitan area in utilizing renewable energy resources for DES. This contrasts with Alberta (Canada) where DES was not implemented, despite the simultaneous construction of infrastructure for three DES in the mid-2000s. This paper discusses the dynamics of the “failure-to-replicate-DES” in the case of Alberta and the “eagerness-to-adopt-DES” in the case of Ile-de-France. First, the scalar division of the state (Cox, 2010) and its transformation plays a crucial role. (Non-)alignment of federal/national and provincial/regional policies on climate change impacts public funding available for DES. In turn, the structure of funding allocation (competitive or secured) impacts the diffusion process of DES. Second, organisation of the energy landscape, as well as urban governance, produces differentiated networks of actors and growth opportunities. In Ile-de-France, DES are part of a “green growth” strategy for global energy utility companies that comes in addition to – not instead of – traditional channels of growth. DES are also a source of "political growth” for competing local governments. By contrast, DES do not secure new channels of growth for local energy utility companies in Alberta. This ultimately makes the (im)mobility of low-carbon energy policy—and systems—highly political and low-carbon transition pathways contested and geographically selective.
Sociospatial Dimensions of Energy Transitions in Germany: Using the TPSN framework (Territory, Place, Scale and Network)
Ludger Gailing (Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Germany)
Germany’s ongoing energy transition cannot be fully grasped without appreciating its spatial impacts and implications. The rapid switch from nuclear to renewable fuels is reconfiguring the spatial structures and relations of energy provisions in Germany. This applies not only to the physical location of new infrastructures for wind, solar and bio-energy and the spatial reordering of energy and resource flows as a result, but also to major shifts in the socio-spatial organization and governance structures of electricity generation and use. In order to better understand these sociospatial dimensions of German energy transitions we used the Territory, Place, Scale and Network (TPSN) developed by Jessop et al. (2008). The fundamental contribution of their approach is to change the focus of the debate: away from whether one ontology of the sociospatial is ‘better’ than the other and on how to we can better grasp the actualities of sociospatial relations. This is to be achieved through moving from a single dimensionality to multidimensionality. The paper discusses the benefits and the shortcomings of the TPSN framework for the understanding of energy transitions in German regions.
Deconstructing technopolitics: the influence of spatial representations in the debate over energy transitions in Sweden
Teva Meyer (University of Paris VIII, France)
Geopolitics scholars have extensively studied the use of energy by States as a coercive tool in their diplomacy policies. In her study of the French nuclear power program, Gabrielle Hecht conceptualized this strategy which aims at mobilizing energy systems to promote political goals as “technopolitics”. However, the political use of energy goes far beyond international relations and can also be traced in national strategies where energy systems are designed to reach spatial planning goals. Gabrielle Hecht shows that technopolitics influences the support of actors in favor of sources that they consider to be the most relevant to fulfill the political goals they give to energy systems. Thus, understanding how technopolitics are constructed can help us explain how different spatial contexts matter in shaping energy transitions.

This communication offers to look into the elaboration of technopolitics by analyzing the ongoing debate over energy future in Sweden. Results show that the political goals gave to energy are influenced by spatial representations proper to the Swedish territory and that these representations are mobilized by actors during the debate to support their claims. After having briefly summarized the energy transition’s debate in Sweden, this communication will discuss four influential representations that we identified: (1) the spatial dichotomy between places where electricity is produced and where it is consumed, (2) the need for spatial cohesion between the sparsely populated territories of northern Sweden and the southern urban regions, (3) the “nordicity" (Hamelin, 1995) of Sweden and (4) the climate vulnerability of Sweden’s energy system.
The (geo)politics of 'Just Transition' from fossil fuels: Uneven resource geographies and supply-side constraint options in the Anthropocene
Philippe Le Billon (The University of British Columbia, Canada)
The challenge of climate change mitigation is generally approached through demand-side reduction, yet there are increasing calls for interventions on the supply-side by curtailing fossil fuel production. Mainstream politics for a 'Just' or 'Fair' Transition away from fossil fuel supplies combine a phasing-out based on demand-driven market mechanisms, with a range of allocative policies seeking to reduce production while maximizing developmental outcomes for low-income fossil fuel producers. Yet the proposal that as much of the remaining 'carbon budget' should be allocated to low-income producers to benefit their local populations is itself questioned by 'resource curse' arguments suggesting that such populations are least likely to benefit from resource revenues as well as more radical politics seeking a more forceful destruction of supply. This paper discusses what the politics of a Just Transition might consist of, and the praxis of resistance to increased fossil fuel production.
Governance of biomass-based energy production
Maria Proestou (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany)
Wibke Crewett (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany)
Biomass-based energy production is associated with the relationship between large-scale land acquisition and shrinking local land markets, thereby carrying ongoing structural changes in rural spaces. We understand this relationship as a question of governance and approach the governance of biomass-based energy production by using the example of the German energy transition. We study the relationship between governance structures, land-use related formal and informal institutions, distribution of power among different actors and resulting processes of land-use decision making. The paper addresses biomass-based energy production from the perspective of institutional economics and proposes a holistic analytical framework for understanding the governance of newly emerging energy spaces. The analysis shows that current institutional settings fail to govern land use for energy production purposes in the light of incomplete implementation of existing regulations.