Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
RN24_07: Energy, climate change & sustainability
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Bernhard Wieser, TU Graz
Location: UP.3.213
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Third Floor Oxford Road

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Towards a Smart Grid for All? Processes of Social Exclusion in the Transformation of Electricity Grids

Ekaterina Tarasova1, Anna Wallsten2, Harald Rohracher1

1Linköping University, Sweden; 2The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI)

Smart electricity grids are perceived to be an essential element of future sustainable energy systems. Various policy initiatives and nearly 1000 ongoing smart grid pilot projects all over Europe give evidence of the huge efforts put into this development.

The strengthening of consumer power in the electricity system and a more active role of households and electricity users is one of the key claims by proponents of smart grid development. However, empirical studies (e.g. Wallsten 2017) show that the actual implementation of smart grids is much more messy and may well lead to developments which rather strengthen the power of established actors and more wealthy households than cater to the needs of a diversity of social groups. There are a few examples of studies that mention that smart energy technologies can increase vulnerability among certain groups of electricity users, such as the elderly, sole parenting women, renting households, the ill, those who are less educated, households with low income and those living in rural areas. Little is known on how to prevent these groups to become neglected or left out in future smart grid roll outs.

In this presentation we will ask, to which extent the politics of smart grid development, the negotiations, communicative strategies and the positioning of different actors, may lead to the exclusion or dis-empowerment of different groups of users. How about those who do not have sufficient access to or competence with smart technologies? Those who resist? Based on an ongoing study of smart grid implementation in Sweden we will work out different mechanisms of social exclusion in socio-technical change.

Seeing is Believing: Citizen’s Engagement with the Science of Climate Change

Ana Delicado1, Giuseppe Pellegrini2, Roberto Falanga1, Jussara Rowland1

1Instituto de Ciências Sociais ULisboa, Portugal; 2Observa

For a number of decades, (dis)belief in climate change has been a prime example of the difficulty in persuading public opinion of what scientists consider a fact. Despite generalised scientific consensus, political discord and media’s “balance as bias” perpetuated the idea of a controversy that clearly reflected on citizen’s opinion. However, the tide seems to be turning. More recent public opinion surveys show that even in the US the share of climate change deniers is growing ever smaller, even if political polarisation shows no sign of diminishing. Direct experience of climate-related disasters (draught, forest fires, hurricanes) may be responsible for this change. However, will this change of perception have an impact on the willingness to support difficult political decisions or rethink everyday practices?

This presentation will explore how citizens form opinions about the science of climate change, which sources of information they use and trust, and the impact it has on actions. It relies mainly on literature review and data analysis of international surveys. The orientation of public opinion will be presented considering the recent Eurobarometer survey on climate change (EBS459, 2017). Europeans are increasingly considering the problem of climate change and have adopted behaviours to reduce energy consumption. Alongside this personal commitment, the awareness that institutions, the business world and scientists must define new goals of commitment to mitigate the effects of Global Warming.

This presentation is based on work carried out for the European funded (H2020) research project CONCISE Communication role on perception and beliefs of EU Citizens about Science, coordinated by the University of Valencia, and with the participation of partners from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia and Poland.

Exnovation, Innovation, and Surprises in the German Energy Transition: What role for Real-world Experiments?

Martin David1, Matthias Gross1,2

1Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany; 2University of Jena, Germany

The German energy transition towards more sustainable forms of energy production has been characterized as a large-scale or real-world experiment. Experiments are open-ended processes set up explicitly to allow (or even generate) surprises. By contrast sustainability implies the pursuit of clearly defined, normative ends. Whereas much of the literature on system transformation builds on the concept of innovation, the hypothesis of this paper is that focusing on the “natural” flipside of innovation – called here “exnovation,” i.e. departing from unsustainable pathways – should also be seen as a valuable conceptual strategy for coping with the tension between the unavoidable indeterminacy resulting from unknown risks and the necessary amendment and redefinition of goals and rules. In this paper elements of the process of the German energy transition are used to illustrate the recursive processes of experimentation that make it possible to accommodate surprise, and, thus, to conceptualize the unavoidable tension between innovation, and the maintenance of older, unsustainable structures. The argument of our paper entails two aspects in particular. First, the recognition of the importance of scenarios like exnovation might be a vital step in order to overcome the innovation bias in sustainability transformation thinking. Second, when envisioning exnovation, policymakers should seek to create co-produced knowledge and, in so doing, be more open to public sentiments and opinions; the German example is telling in this regard. Constructively addressing controversies that develop either by not exnovating or by exnovating might be a vital asset in the futurization of politics for sustainability.

Climate Change and Cosmovisions in Environmental Assesment Processes in Chile and South America

Cristian Parker

Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Chile

The measures for adaptation and mitigation to climate change in developing countries will be effective as citizens and institutions evaluate the environmental impacts coherently. The historical experience of environmental assessment in Chile, and in Latin America, leads us to believe that environmental assessment processes face difficulties that are technical and political, as well as regulatory and managerial. But they are also because of the “encounters” of types of knowledge. It has been studied how the expert accounts of physical reality have come into conflict with local knowledge. It is proposed that we are dealing with the dilemma expert knowledge / non-expert knowledge as if socio-technical knowledge was the only challenge to manage the environment. The analysis of the variety of types of knowledge found in environmental assessment processes has been scarce and is the subject of this paper.

The "socio-climatic" semantic differences of the discourses of the social actors that intervene in environmental evaluation is also explained by the social actor’s cosmovision (as a key background). The perspectives on climate change and energy issues are fundamental and help the construction of referential knowledge frameworks.

The thesis about the relevance of these "knowledge encounters" and the controversies in which knowledge of climate change is decisive, is methodologically based in an empirical research in three communes of Chile (FONDECYT 1181065), on data obtained from two previous sociological researches in four South America countries and in comparative terms with the literature (secondary sources) existing in Latin America on this subject.

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