Contesting Energy Transitions: Windy Relations in the Outer Hebrides

Authors: Steven J Harry*, King's College London
Topics: Energy, Political Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: Wind energy, energy democracy, landscape, metabolism, renewable energy transition, siting conflicts, struggle, Scotland
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Galerie 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The outcome of an intentional transition to a new energy system will largely depend on how it will be brought about, by whom and on whose terms (Abramsky 2010). Indeed, under the dictates of capital, it is highly likely that RE technologies will be ‘fossilised’ (Raman 2013), transitions ‘neoliberalised’ (Newell and Phillips 2016), and the new geographies of energy production ‘extractivised’ (Huber and McCarthy 2017). Further, it is evident that the siting and distribution of energy produced in these geographies is no less inherently political than those of fossil-fuel extraction. Recent studies have shown social context, fairness concerns and participatory justice are important factors in siting conflicts (Liebe et al. 2017), while community power and grassroots initiatives often rely on institutional space to challenge dominant power-relations (Kooij et al. 2018). In this paper, I examine and follow a case in the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, where hundreds of crofters are fighting an attempt by the energy giants EDF and Wood Group to build a windfarm on the island; the crofters want to build their own development, with the profits going to the local community. I draw on three concepts – ‘metabolism’, ‘landscape’ and ‘energy democracy’ – to begin to unravel the entanglement of social and natural relations at the heart of this case and to underpin a wider discussion of the restructuring of land-based struggles in the constitution of energy-society relations.

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