Insular and divided energy spaces: between autarky and integration

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Timothy Moss
Chairs: Conor Harrison

Call for Submissions

We invite abstracts that address insular and divided energy spaces. Papers for this session should shed fresh light on the relationship between isolation and integration over energy provision and use, relating to either island settings or conditions of political division. The following are suggestions for themes and approaches welcome to the session:

Materialities of separation and cooperation (e.g. energy sources, infrastructures, technologies) and their performative politics;
Geographies of energy in insular or politically divided contexts, reaching from local sites of consumption to the hinterlands of energy provision;
Temporalities of energy services in islands or divided territories that reflect past legacies, shifting contexts and imagined futures;
Strategies of energy resilience along the integration-isolation continuum;
Contexts framing the place-specific enactments of energy division or isolation;
Economics of energy autarky versus regional integration;
Modes of isolationism and cooperation, ranging from the formal to the informal.

These represent only suggestions of possible themes; the organizers welcome ideas for other perspectives.

Abstracts should be submitted to the organisers by 19 October 2018. Contact: or


As small-scale and community energy projects increasingly challenge the dominant paradigm of centralized provision, uniform service and supply orientation, human geographers are exploring the emergent spaces of these energy experiments (Bridge et al. 2013). A rich tapestry of scholarship is emerging on the political geography of sub-national energy strategies (Cowell et al. 2017; Stokes and Breetz 2018), renewable energy landscapes (Bouzarovski 2009; Nadai and van der Horst 2010), low carbon cities (Bulkeley et al. 2011; McQuirk et al. 2016), and the re-municipalization of energy utilities (Becker et al. 2016), to name but a few of the strands. Fundamental to these recent developments is the relationship between separation and integration of future energy systems. Local energy initiatives aspiring to self-dependence in energy provision, for instance, soon have to confront the thorny question of whether and how they will interact with existing energy networks and other providers. Explaining this relationship in binary terms – as a choice between separation and connectivity – may have predominated in earlier research, but is not proving helpful in unpacking the complexities involved. Playing up the differences between centralization and decentralization or between connection and disconnection conceals messy realities in which energy systems embody varying degrees of integration and fragmentation in their socio-technical configuration in different places at different times. It is more useful, we argue, to conceive of the relationship between integration and isolation as a continuum, rather than a dichotomy. This integration-isolation continuum is multi-faceted, dynamic and, above all, place-specific.

This session seeks to unpack the integration-isolation continuum of energy provision through the lens of territories challenged by their physical and political geographies of separation. It explores strategies, structures and trajectories of energy supply and use in two archetypes of separated spatial entities: islands and divided cities/states. The physical geography of islands like those in the Caribbean, South Pacific or Mediterranean has led to isolated electricity systems characterised by small markets and fuelled by costly fossil fuel imports. Now facing the impacts of climate change, many islands are seeking to transition to renewable energy but face difficulties because of their isolation from both larger energy systems and location on the periphery of global capital flows. The political division of cities or states such as Jerusalem, Beirut, Berlin or Cyprus has had a profound effect on their energy systems. Their energy infrastructures have been (re-)configured, energy flows redirected and energy consumption practices adapted to accommodate the vulnerabilities associated with the divided political geographies of these entities. At the same time, infrastructures, institutions and practices of energy provision and use have often been enrolled in strengthening the resilience of these cities or states, by increasing energy autarky or sustaining infrastructural links.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Eric Verdeil*, CERI Sciences Po, The challenges of Beirut's electricity supply from the civil war to the post-reconstruction years: division, shortages and autonomisation 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Conor Harrison*, University of South Carolina, Caught between abundance and scarcity: geothermal, isolated energy systems, and island interconnection in the eastern Caribbean 20 8:20 AM
Introduction Timothy Moss IRI THESys Humboldt University of Berlin 20 8:40 AM

To access contact information login