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Critical Renewabilities: Political Ecologies of Renewable Energy IV - Energy justice and just transitions

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Energy and Environment Specialty Group, Feminist Geographies Specialty Group
Organizers: Ingrid Behrsin, Anthony Levenda, James McCarthy
Chairs: Anthony Levenda


Facing the challenge of global climate change and other 21st century disruptions, scholars across multiple fields of geographic research have increasingly embraced renewable energy transitions as a core concern. Such transitions are at once material and ecological, power-laden, and culturally meaningful – and thus deeply geographical (Bridge et al. 2013). Critical renewable energy geographers are therefore drawing upon political economy, feminist science studies, decolonial studies, environmental justice and other interdisciplinary approaches to investigate renewable energy transitions as emerging spaces of possibilities and constraints. This scholarship illuminates how renewable energy development may usher in new green economic imaginaries of technological 'disruption' and renewal (Knuth 2017; 2018), promise novel socioecological fixes to capitalist crisis tendencies (McCarthy 2015; Castree and Christophers 2015), and/or serve as liberatory “technologies of existence” (Powell 2006). Renewable energy transitions, and the variegated movements both in support of and in resistance to them, are thus fertile terrain for political ecology and critical energy scholars.

These sessions seek to prompt new and renewed (McCarthy 2012) scholarly conversations that explore themes such as:

* The processes of enclosure and dispossession that facilitate the rollout of solar, wind, hydropower, and other renewable energy technologies (Rignall 2016; Avila-Calero 2017; Baka 2017; Harlan 2018);
* The intersections of techno-scientific knowledge production and political economic interests that facilitate renewable energy uptake (Newell and Mulvaney 2013; Franklin and Osborne 2017; Levenda 2018; Behrsin 2019);
* The construction and exploitation of social difference to amplify dominant power arrangements and interests in renewable energy planning processes (Carruthers and Rodriguez 2009; Joshi 2015; Lennon 2017);
* Environmental and energy justice movements and initiatives in support of equitable renewable energy transitions and just futures (Powell 2006; Curley 2018; Huber 2018).


Avila-Calero, Sofia. 2017. “Contesting Energy Transitions: Wind Power and Conflicts in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.” Journal of Political Ecology 24 (1): 992–1012.
Baka, Jennifer. 2017. “Making Space for Energy: Wasteland Development, Enclosures, and Energy Dispossessions.” Antipode 49 (4): 977–96.
Behrsin, Ingrid. 2019. “Rendering Renewable: Technoscience and the Political Economy of Waste-to-Energy Regulation in the European Union.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 109 (5): 1362–78.
Bridge, Gavin, Stefan Bouzarovski, Michael Bradshaw, and Nick Eyre. 2013. “Geographies of Energy Transition: Space, Place and the Low-Carbon Economy.” Energy Policy 53 (February): 331–40.
Carruthers, David, and Patricia Rodriguez. 2009. “Mapuche Protest, Environmental Conflict and Social Movement Linkage in Chile.” Third World Quarterly 30 (4): 743–60.
Castree, Noel, and Brett Christophers. 2015. “Banking Spatially on the Future: Capital Switching, Infrastructure, and the Ecological Fix.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105 (2): 378–86.
Curley, Andrew. 2018. “A Failed Green Future: Navajo Green Jobs and Energy ‘Transition’ in the Navajo Nation.” Geoforum 88 (January): 57–65.
Franklin, Remington, and Tracey Osborne. 2017. “Toward an Urban Political Ecology of Energy Justice: The Case of Rooftop Solar in Tucson, AZ.” Journal of Political Ecology 24 (1): 1055-1076.
Harlan, Tyler. 2018. “Rural Utility to Low-Carbon Industry: Small Hydropower and the Industrialization of Renewable Energy in China.” Geoforum 95 (October): 59–69.
Huber, Matt. 2018. “Building a ‘Green New Deal’: Lessons From the Original New Deal.” Versobooks.Com (blog). November 19, 2018.
Joshi, Deepa. 2015. “Like Water for Justice.” Geoforum 61 (May): 111–21.
Knuth, Sarah. 2017. “Green Devaluation: Disruption, Divestment, and Decommodification for a Green Economy.” Capitalism Nature Socialism 28 (1): 98–117.
———. 2018. “‘Breakthroughs’ for a Green Economy? Financialization and Clean Energy Transition.” Energy Research & Social Science, Energy Infrastructure and the Fate of the Nation, 41 (July): 220–29.
Lennon, Myles. 2017. “Decolonizing Energy: Black Lives Matter and Technoscientific Expertise amid Solar Transitions.” Energy Research & Social Science 30 (August): 18–27.
Levenda, Anthony M. 2018. “Mobilizing Smart Grid Experiments: Policy Mobilities and Urban Energy Governance.” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, September.
McCarthy, James. 2012. “Political Ecology/Economy.” In The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography, edited by Trevor J. Barnes, Jamie Peck, and Eric S. Sheppard, 612–25. Wiley-Blackwell Companions to Geography. Chichester, West Sussex ; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
———. 2015. “A Socioecological Fix to Capitalist Crisis and Climate Change? The Possibilities and Limits of Renewable Energy.” Environment and Planning A 47 (12): 2485–2502.
Newell, Peter, and Dustin Mulvaney. 2013. “The Political Economy of the ‘Just Transition.’” The Geographical Journal 179 (2): 132–40.
Powell, Dana E. 2006. “Technologies of Existence: The Indigenous Environmental Justice Movement.” Development 49 (3): 125–32.
Rignall, Karen Eugenie. 2016. “Solar Power, State Power, and the Politics of Energy Transition in Pre-Saharan Morocco.” Environment and Planning A 48 (3): 540–57.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Dustin Mulvaney*, , Embodied Energy Justice and the Global Solar Industry 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Sofia Avila*, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, James McCarthy , Clark University, Geography Department, Alevgul Sorman, Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Countermapping renewables: spatial politics in Mexico’s energy transition strategy 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Abigail Martin*, Science & Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, Environmental justice activism and community solar development: struggles over the commodification and 'commonification' of electricity in the US 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Heather Bedi*, Dickinson College, India’s Energy transition and Persistent Climate Injustices 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Siddharth Sareen*, University of Bergen, Legitimating power: Solar energy, metrics and transition politics 15 12:00 AM

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