Alternative energy for an alternative society? New and old patterns of the Brazilian case
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
After conducting an extensive comparative research on the development of alternative energies in Brazil and Canada in the first decade of the 2000s, this study sought to produce and analyze new data on the current model of energy development in Brazil. Considered one of the countries with the greatest energy potential, with large renewable resources, the country maintains a medium trajectory in the development of alternative energies. Among the factors that explain this trajectory, the study highlights the presence of a peculiar socio-technical network (Latour, Knorr-Cetina), in which the political-business arena gains predominance, being determinant for the reduction of the transformative potential arising from the emergence of a new model of energy development and its societal consequences. In this context, paradoxically, new technologies and values (sustainability) coexist with technologies and practices of the nineteenth century, with the conservation of an extreme unequal society, with great risks (Giddens) to the preservation of natural resources and the ecosystem.
Between local and global – framing of energy facility siting
Södertörn University, Sweden
The current energy transition, evident in many countries around the world, entails changes not only on a policy level but also in the physical landscape. The extraction and transportation of “alternative” and/or “sustainable” energy requires new infrastructure, sited in an existing physical, social and cultural setting (Boholm & Löfstedt 2004; Owens 2004; Nadaï 2007; Bridge et al 2013; Shove & Walker 2014; Mels 2014).
This article discusses how local actors legitimize their position towards new energy projects by analysing how they frame the localization of a natural gas pipeline and a proposed, but later rejected, wind power park in a specific geographical area. By using a theoretical framework based on frame analysis and theories of social practices (Snow et al 1986; Schön & Rein 1994; Schatzki 1996; Macnaghten & Urry 1998; Reckwitz 2002; Benford & Snow 2000, Perri 6 2005; Shove & Walker 2014), the article shows that the interviewed local actors combine understandings of the physical and social landscape with environmental issues and global politics as well as moral concerns when constructing their frames.
Thus, localization of energy infrastructure accentuates a combination of the local – as infrastructure is geographically located somewhere – and the global, as energy belongs to a sector conceptually and commercially global in character. As elaborated in the article, the frames are hierarchically connected to each other. Further, by claiming that actors use and combine different levels of sustainability to frame and legitimize their position, the article presents an extended interpretation of sustainable energy production.
Making energy grids smart. Investigating apparatuses regulating energy flows
University of Torino, Italy
In this paper, we describe the assemblages and functioning of conventional energy grids at the beginning of the smartness process. This exercise is useful because it makes possible to pinpoint obstacles, barriers, resistances, conflicts, differences, and necessities in the process of energy grids improving efficiency, security and usability. Usually, the description of an energy smart grid consists of a list of properties that the grid needs to get to be called “smart”. A smart grid give smart information, allows for savings, allows for good and real-time information, connect providers and users. Yet, what is still lacking in the claim for smart grid is an ontological dimension of both energy flows and grid. In our idea, it is not enough to enunciate an amount of technical characteristics that should mark the grid and its smartness. What we are trying to do is to suggest a sociological frame to understand the work of energy smart grids aimed to regulate the flows circulating in the grid and the access to these flows by different agents. To accomplish this task, we use a sociology of flows informed by two main perspectives. The first one is to conceive energy grids as technological zones, in which standard metering, communication infrastructures, and social evaluation assemble. The second one is to conceive energy grids as an apparatus in which asymmetries of power, information, decision-making, intensity floating into the grid constitute the ontology of the grid itself. A smart grid that wants to align or flattening the original disparities must forge a new apparatus able to make the disparate orders constituting an energy grid converging toward a new order of difference and similarity.
New materialist perspective in empirical research of coal mining industry
Masaryk University, Czech Republic
In past years, climate change became the global issue number one, undergoing a transformation from an abstract imaginary hypothesis into a very real threat of an unprecedented magnitude. It has gained status of the most profound market failure in history and the most acute symptom of the Anthropocene.
Regardless the threat, in the past decade the Czech Republic has invested over 3 billion Euro in coal-fired power plants and has enlarged the area available for coal extraction. Czech energy industry continues to rely on coal in order to take the opportunity to saturate the energetic needs of surrounding countries which are closing their electric facilities. Consequently, the Czech Republic is constantly among European leaders in shares of electricity exported, while destructive effects of climate change have not found their way into an adequate economic calculation or political articulation. It seems as if the only limitation to fossil industry was the finite amount of fossil reserves.
In order to understand such development, present paper offers a new materialist ontology as a research equipment navigating empirical investigation. New materialism enables to grasp the heterogeneity of interconnected environmental, social, political, economical, psychological and technological relationships between a major Czech coal-mining company and climate change politics. The main focus is to present a stabilized conceptual corpus of a Deleuze-Guattarian philosophy, elaborated by number of philosophers ranging from Manuel De Landa, Levi Bryant, John Protevi, Mark Bonta to Graham Harman, utilized in an empirical research of a Czech coal mining company.