Cooking for Fidel: Decarbonization and Recentralization in Cuba’s Energy Revolution

Authors: Gustav Cederlof*, King's College London
Topics: Energy, Political Geography, Latin America
Keywords: energy transition, electrification, socialism, Cuba
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Most Cubans long cooked with stuff that would burn: kerosene, LPG, diesel, charcoal, or even sawdust. But if you dine in Cuba today, chances are high that the food has been cooked with an electrical appliance. The electrification of Cuba’s kitchens was integral to the “Energy Revolution”; a nationwide campaign launched by which Fidel Castro in 2005. Astonishingly, the IEA reports that the carbon intensity of the Cuban economy at the same time decreased by 32 percent. This paper examines how the Cuban government reconfigured the national energy infrastructures during the Energy Revolution for the twin purposes of decarbonization and intensified household electricity use. More than an issue of energy transition, however, I will argue that the Energy Revolution was an attempt to maintain and reconfigure social power relations. Inasmuch as the Cuban government transformed the “ecology of cooking”, the Energy Revolution was an effort to re-establish the hegemony of the socialist state through energy use. By changing the technological and biophysical circumstances for everyday life, the Energy Revolution restored the state’s ability to de-commodify energy and redistribute it centrally. If energy infrastructures are understood as integral to the “ecology of politics” (Huber, 2013), then infrastructural maintenance ought to be understood as an act that reinforces a socio-ecological order and hence a set of political-economic relations.

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