Governing Renewable Energy Rollouts in Financially Constrained Contexts

Governing Renewable Energy Rollouts in Financially Constrained Contexts

Bérénice Girarda, Renée Neven-Scharnigga, Shayan Shokrgozarb and Siddharth Sareenab

a: Department of Media and Social Sciences, University of Stavanger, Norway

b: Department of Geography & Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation, University of Bergen, Norway

Call for papers 

Research on renewable energy rollouts, e.g. solar photovoltaics, has historically focused on frontrunner contexts (Sareen et al, in press) such as China, California and Freiburg. This special issue seeks to bring attention to rollout governance dynamics in financially constrained contexts where issues of energy affordability, poverty, and scarcity are particularly salient at diverse national, regional, and local scales.

In light of cost declines and quality improvement in renewable energy sources in the early 21st century, fossil fuel displacement in favour of cleaner alternatives has become technically and economically feasible. Emerging scholarship, however, underlines worrying rollout dynamics, such as bias toward utility-scale projects, socioecological degradation, and appropriation of land through green grabbing (Dunlap & Correa Arce, 2021; Stock & Birkenholtz, 2019; Siamanta, 2019). For example, the largest solar energy capacity increases are at utility scale, despite smaller-scale implementation potentially leading to better socio-ecological outcomes. Imaginaries, discourses, and practices by new and incumbent powers compete on how such rollouts should look and whom they should benefit to shape the current modality of implementation. Risks of exclusion, inequality and sub-optimality are particularly acute in financially constrained contexts with capital and cashflow constraints, energy poverty, pressure from foreign capital, and challenges linked to infrastructural deficits.

We invite studies that explore the unfolding dynamics of renewable energy rollout in diverse financially constrained contexts and identify emergent risks, while centring values of care (Damgaard, McCauley, & Reid, 2022), dignity (Franquesa Bartolome, 2018), necessity (Rao, Min, & Mastrucci, 2019), and justice (Bouzarovski, 2022). We are also keen to understand how these values shape institutional dynamics and accountability relations (Sareen and Wolf, 2021). We are furthermore interested in bottom-up transitions wherein households, institutions, communities, and municipalities bypass unaffordable or failing grids by investing in lower-carbon sources. This focus offers scope to combine attention at the intersection of efficiency measures and demand reduction with renewable energy rollout and fuel switching practices.

Renewable energy rollouts are taking place at multiple scales simultaneously, with different actors using myriad practices to legitimate their authority (Sareen, 2021). How do issues of energy affordability and poverty affect place-based debates on low-carbon transitions? Which aspects of socioecological issues are generally foregrounded or avoided in implementing renewable energy rollouts under financial constraints? How do synergies between these concerns and the pace of renewable energy rollouts materialise?

Contributions, which will ideally combine empirical and conceptual ambition and rigour, can aim to address the broad scope of themes presented below. We especially welcome conceptually ambitious papers that study renewable energy rollouts at multiple scales.

  • Legitimating processes and practices. How do imaginaries, master narratives and/or discourses interact with policy, regulation, planning, financial flows and other practices to shape energy transitions in financially- or politically-constrained contexts?
  • Indebtedness and austerity measures in low-carbon rollouts. What roles do public and private banks and funding agencies play in facilitating, shaping or limiting renewable energy rollouts and energy efficiency practices in different contexts?
  • Accountability in energy transitions. How do imaginaries around poverty, feminism, gender equality, masculinitiesand feminities impact the accountability relations that structure low-carbon transitions?
  • Policy and institutional change. What is the role of the state? What processes of state-building are implicated in energy transitions? How do state agents and institutions respond to pressures for accountability in energy transitions? 
  • Contestation and opposition. How do various forms of protest, opposition and debate around justice, ecology, distribution and use of public resources, decentralised production and/or land grabbing, and the power dynamics that they reveal, shape energy transitions? 
  • Climate coloniality. What strategies, practices, discursive and epistemic framings, material outcomes and imagined futures (Sultana, 2022) are working to reinforce or decentre the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism in energy transitions? 

Submission guidelines and timeline

Email an extended 500 word abstract to berenice.r.girard@uis.no and siddharth.sareen@uis.no by 15 September 2022, preferably earlier. We will finalise selection by 30 September 2022, and pursue acceptance of a thematic special issue in a suitable journal directly thereafter. Papers will be workshopped during 21-23 November 2022 in Stavanger, Norway. Full drafts will be due by 20 January 2023. We aim to complete the special issue by the end of 2023.

With regard to the workshop, we will cover lunches and a conference dinner thanks to two grants – a University of Stavanger Green Transitions grant via the Greenhouse, and a Research Council of Norway grant for the Accountable Solar Energy TransitionS (ASSET) project. Participants will however be responsible for travel and accommodation costs. Limited modest bursaries will be available upon request. Online participation might also be possible. Confirmed invited speakers include Jamie Cross, Daniel Barber, Giulia Mininni and Ryan Stock.

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Abstracts to be submitted by 15 September 2022

Workshop in Stavanger, Norway: 21-23 November 2022

Full drafts due on 20 January 2023

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References

Bell, S., Daggett, C., & Labuski, C. (2020). Toward feminist energy systems: Why adding women and solar panels is not enough. Energy Research & Social Science68, 101557. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101557

Bisaga, I., Parikh, P., Tomei, J., & To, L. (2021). Mapping synergies and trade-offs between energy and the sustainable development goals: A case study of off-grid solar energy in Rwanda. Energy Policy149, 112028. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2020.112028

Bouzarovski, S. (2022). Just Transitions: A Political Ecology Critique. Antipode0, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12823

Daggett, C. (2021). Energy and domination: Contesting the fossil myth of fuel expansion. Environmental Politics30(4), 644–662. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2020.1807204

Damgaard, C., McCauley, D., & Reid, L. (2022). Towards energy care ethics: Exploring ethical implications of relationality within energy systems in transition. Energy Research & Social Science84, 102356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2021.102356

Dunlap, A., & Arce, M. (2021). ‘Murderous energy’ in Oaxaca, Mexico: Wind factories, territorial struggle and social warfare. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2020.1862090

Franquesa Bartolome, J. (2018). Power struggles: Dignity, value, and the renewable energy frontier in Spain. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Rao, N., Min, J., & Mastrucci, A. (2019). Energy requirements for decent living in India, Brazil and South Africa. Nature Energy4(12), 1025–1032. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-019-0497-9

Sareen, S., Shokrgozar, S., Scharnigg, R., Girard, B., Martin, A., & Wolf, S. (in press). Accountable solar energy transitions in financially constrained contexts. In (ed. E. Edmondson) Sustainability transformations, social transitions and environmental accountabilities. London: Palgrave.

Sareen, S., & Wolf, S. (2021). Accountability and sustainability transitions. Ecological Economics, 185, 107056. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.107056

Sareen, S. (2021). Legitimating power: Solar energy rollout, sustainability metrics and transition politics. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 25148486211024903.

Siamanta, Z. (2019). Wind parks in post-crisis Greece: Neoliberalisation vis-à-vis green grabbing. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space2(2), 274–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848619835156

Stock, R., & Birkenholtz, T. (2021). The sun and the scythe: Energy dispossessions and the agrarian question of labor in solar parks. The Journal of Peasant Studies48(5), 984–1007. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2019.1683002

Sultana, F. (2022). The unbearable heaviness of climate coloniality. Political Geography, 102638. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2022.102638

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