Séminaire à l’AFD le 19/12/2019 : L’hybridation des systèmes électriques dans les espaces urbains et en voie d’intégration urbaine des pays émergents

Systèmes de production énergétique sur le toit d’une école à Beyrouth (Eric Verdeil, 2019)

Nous avons le plaisir de vous inviter à ce séminaire co-organisé avec l’AFD.

Les villes des pays émergents et en développement connaissent de lourds problèmes de fourniture en électricité que les réponses conventionnelles telles que l’extension du réseau ne parviennent pas à résoudre. C’est pourquoi on assiste au développement de solutions alternatives, individuelles ou collectives, tels que des réseaux décentralisés et hybrides. Appliquant le concept d’hybridation aux études socio-techniques, le projet de recherche Hybridelec se propose d’étudier ces nouvelles configurations, qui restent mal connues, et leurs impacts sur le futur du système électrique. Le programme Hybridelec est soutenu par l’ANR et L’AFD. 

19 décembre 2019 14h30 – AFD Paris, 5 rue Roland Barthes, Paris 12


Le but de cette session est de livrer une première série de résultats obtenus dans sept pays où se déroulent les enquêtes (Inde, Afrique du Sud, Nigéria, Bénin, Tanzanie, Sénégal, Liban) explorant la diversité et le foisonnement des assemblages sociotechniques que recouvre cette notion d’hybridation des systèmes électriques. Ces analyses interrogent les formes de régulations publiques mises en œuvre, qu’elles visent directement l’électrification, la transition énergétique ou qu’elles interagissent avec ces objectifs à partir d’autres enjeux (sociaux, économiques, politiques). La discussion entre chercheurs et experts de l’AFD a pour but de contribuer à l’identification de dynamiques d’électrification mal connues et des réfléchir aux enjeux de politiques publiques qu’elles soulèvent.

Programme :       

 14h30-14h45    Introduction par Eric Verdeil (CERI-Sciences Po)       

 14h45-15h15    Les mini-réseaux en Afrique Sub-saharienne et dans l’Inde rurale : logiques d’une électrification temporaire par Bérénice Girard (LATTS-Université Paris Est) et Emmanuelle Guillou (LATTS-Université Paris Est/Hydroconseil)        

15h15-15h45    La place des générateurs dans les systèmes électriques locaux: Liban, Nigéria, Indepar Elvan Arik, LATTS-Université Paris Est / Mélanie Rateau, LATTS-Université Paris Est / Eric Verdeil CERI Sciences Po        


16h00-17h00    Le développement du solaire photovoltaïque pour les ménages et les entreprises : politiques publiques et dynamiques de marché (Afrique du Sud, Inde, Liban)par Sylvy Jaglin (LATTS-Université Paris Est) et Alain Dubresson (Univ. Paris Nanterre) RSA ; Bérénice Girard (LATTS-Université Paris Est) et Marie-Hélène Zérah (IRD/CPR Dehli) Inde ; Alix Chaplain (CERI-Sciences Po)) Liban        

17h00-17h30    Débat général

Un événement organisé dans le cadre du partenariat AFD-SciencesPo Paris

[New publication] Securitisation of urban electricity supply. A political ecology perspective on the cases of Jordan and Lebanon, by Eric Verdeil

Generator owned by the private company Electricity of Jbeil

Éric Verdeil. Securitisation of urban electricity supply A political ecology perspective on the cases of Jordan and Lebanon Eric Verdeil. Haim Yacobi; Mansour Nasasra. Routledge Handbook on Middle Eastern Cities, Routledge, pp.246-264, 2019. Online : halshs-02176158

Abstract: Questions about urban infrastructure, resilience, and violence are central to current urban general literature since infrastructures function as locations of conflict and negotiation over the public good, inclusion and exclusion, and mobility in the city. This chapter develops a theoretical framework to analyse the emergence of new concerns for urban energy security in the cities of Amman (Jordan) and Jbeil and Zahleh (Lebanon). Supplying these cities with electricity requires creating new circuits that are both material and sociopolitical. In Amman, one of the projects proposed for coping with the projected growth of energy demand was to build a nuclear plant in the “desert” close to Amman. This project, allegedly in the final studies stage at the time of completing the chapter, has experienced many episodes and delays. Analysis shows the pressure of urban energy demand and the resizing of metabolic circuits at the level of the metropolis of Amman, while the governance of these circuits remains state-driven despite popular protests. In Jbeil and Zahleh, in the face of regular and long-lasting power cuts, local capitalist actors have taken the lead to provide an alternative electricity supply that replaces both the national grid and informal generators that are in use elsewhere in the country. At first glance, both situations seem very different in scale and in the type of actors involved. But in both cases, these new circuits are heavily contested and redistribute agencies of power in ways that empower some actors but that, at the same time, erode solidarity at the city and the national levels.

[New publication] New Powers: How India’s Smart Cities are Governing and Transitioning to Low-carbon Energy

We are happy to announce the release of a new working paper, partly supported by Hybridelec, in association with the Center for Policy Studies in Dehli:

Bhardwaj, Ankit, Fererico De Lorenzo, et Marie-Hélène Zérah. 2019. New Powers: : How India’s Smart Cities are Governing and Transitioning to Low-carbon Energy. Dehli: Center for Policy Research.


Despite the potential of cities to foster a low-carbon energy transition, the governance of energy in India broadly remains within the purview of central and state governments. However, the Smart Cities Mission, a new urban scheme launched in 2015, gives Indian cities new powers to govern energy, a surprising departure from previous urban and energy policies. We argue that this shift is significant and we therefore raise three questions: 1) what kind of energy projects are planned and what does it reveal about the cities’ vision towards energy? 2) does the Smart Cities Mission foster a low-carbon energy transition and if so, how is this transition envisaged? 3) and finally, what are the rationale and the drivers behind this apparent shift?

To address these questions, we build on a database of projects and financing plans submitted by the first 60 cities selected in the Smart Cities Mission. We find that cities have earmarked an immense 13,161 INR crore (~1.4 billion GBP) for energy projects, with most funds dedicated to basic infrastructure, primarily focused on enhancing the grid and supply. Cities also proposed projects in solar energy, electric vehicles, waste to energy and LED lighting, indicating their appetite for low-carbon projects. While cities were given institutional space to prioritise certain technologies, their interventions were conditioned by centrally sources of financing which were limited to certain mandated technologies. A focus on technology, rather than planning, undermined the role of cities as strategic decision-makers. What emerges is a dual faced reading of the Smart Cities Mission, indicating the potential and pitfalls of contemporary decentralized energy governance in the Global South.

The full working paper can be accessed here.

RGS-IBG panel: Hybrid electrical configurations: from heterogeneity to new conceptualization of energy transition in Southern countries?

We are glad to invite you on Wednesday 28 August 2019, to attend the RGS-IBG Conference panel in London (Skempton Building, Room 163, Imperial College) where the first results of our research will be presented and discussed with other researchers.

Here is the panel’s programme:

Session 1 (09:00 – 10:40 ) Chair : Francesca Pilo’

What happens when grid supply improves? Insights on the evolutions of hybrid electrical configurations in the city of Bhagalpur (Bihar, India)

Berenice Girard (LATTS, Université Paris Est Marne la Vallée, France)
This paper will focus on Bhagalpur, the third largest city in the State of Bihar (India). Though for many years, grid supply was very erratic in the region, it improved in the last few years and most residents connected to the grid in Bhagalpur now get around 18 to 22 hours of electricity a day. Based on extensive fieldwork and interviews with local entrepreneurs who invested in alternative energy systems, such as mini-grid operators and solar panel retailers, this paper will try to decipher how the hybridization of energy systems in Bhagalpur has evolved with the improvement of grid supply. 

Looking at different technologies (batteries, diesel mini-grids, solar) and different markets (households, shops and market areas, public sector), we are able to identify different dynamics. Amongst collective solutions such as diesel mini-grids, while some disappear, others either remain beyond the reach of the grid or are able to adapt by becoming complementary to it. As regards individual systems, while the market for batteries is thriving, the market for solar home systems is slowing down. New perspectives are however emerging for big solar retailers, as government agencies, small entrepreneurs and very well-off urban dwellers are investing in large solar rooftops for different reasons ranging from decreasing the pressure on the grid to being more eco-responsible to reducing one’s electricity bill. Amongst other factors, which favour hybridization, we can underline a general distrust in the conventional network, the resilience of past practices and the social embeddedness of certain systems. Hybrid configurations thus appear as dynamic arrangements, continuously shaped by evolving local, regional and national socio-technical and political contexts.

Lebanon – the emergence of a complex landscape of hybrid electric connexions

Alix Chaplain (Sciences Po CERI, CNRS, France)
Eric Verdeil (Sciences Po, France)
Lebanon, a middle income country, has a devastating record for the performance of the electric grid, as a result from civil war damage but also paralysis of reconstruction plans for more than 25 years. Outages currently amount to more than 8 hours daily in most part of the country. This long lasting situation has given rise to the advent and gradual solidification of a landscape of alternative electric solutions. Mainly based on diesel generators, it also makes room, more recently, for more diversified technologies, conjugating renewable energies such as PV panels, batteries, connected to the grid and to the generators, at various operational scales (individual house, building, plants but also pilot solar villages). The notion of ‘hybrid solutions’ is currently employed by many of these actors, though not always with the same meaning.

While several works have already examined generators in residential contexts (Gabillet 2010; Abi Ghanem 2017; Verdeil 2016), this emerging hybrid landscape has not been documented yet. This paper intends to present the first findings, based on a several months of fieldwork in Lebanon. After summarizing Lebanon’s electricity sector political economy, it explains the recent policy initiatives that have helped to shape the more diverse landscape that is emerging, by focusing on the institutional work done by the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation. Then it provides a first mapping of the hybrid projects already identified. Then, focusing on two cases with a political economy lens, we will raise questions about the legal and regulatory pending issues. In contrast to many accounts of heterogeneous infrastructure as precarious and always shifting, our contribution highlights infrastructural changes which have a potential of shaping alternative paths for the electric sector on the long run.

Following the panels: A bottom up lens to see urban changes in the peripheries of Delhi

Marie-Hélène Zerah (IRD/Université Paris Diderot, CESSMA (UMR 245), France)
This presentation is based on preliminary field investigations into the deployment of renewable energies, in particular solar energy, in the Southern part of Haryana. This ongoing research focuses on two aspects. The first one traces the genealogy of public policies that promote renewable energy in the State. The second one is based on a “follow solar panels” method that has been used in order to capture the diversity of users across spaces that have hybridized their sources of energy.

The presentation’s objective is three-fold. The first one is to advance a typology of rationales for adopting off-grid or grid-connected solar (ranging from ensuring better access, harnessing existing subsidies, peer behavior, rebound effect). The second one is to give attention to the manner in which the market is constructed. More specifically, it underlines the important role of small locally-based entrepreneurs that are at the forefront of promoting solar energy in the rural – urban frontier. Finally, the third objective is to open up a reflection on the manner in which variety of practices on the ground by users and market players tell us about the nature of the co-evolution of urban space transformation and energy transition in peripheries of large cities.

Distributed renewables and hybrid electrical configurations in South Africa: a bottom-up approach to energy transition processes

Sylvy Jaglin (Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, France)
Since the electrical crisis in 2008 and its aftermath, and the wreckage of Eskom, a public monopoly company whose unbundling was announced by President Ramaphosa in February 2019, the South African energy landscape is changing. Three game changers are essential at the national level: the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REI4P) and a ‘regulatory decompression’ parallel to a ‘PV revolution’ that favors small independent producers.

At the local level, municipalities are struggling to adapt in order to preserve the foundations of their redistributive business model and to regulate processes of change that lead, de facto, to a growing heterogeneity of local electrical systems. Field surveys in the Western Cape Province show both the internal diversity of the emerging socio-technical configurations of electricity supply and the variety of situations from one city to another. Examining the hypothesis of a long-term hybridization, the communication suggests that, in this context, it is necessary to consider the energy transition first as a re-arrangement issue of this diversity rather than as an independent end. This, however, raises key questions in terms of the reorganization of the electricity landscape, of a re-invention of municipal electrical services as a common good and, more generally, of the governance of energy transition processes that are both rooted in local territories and aligned with national objectives.

On citizenship, off-grid: state agents of the post-network city

Jon Phillips (University of Cambridge, UK)

This presentation will explore the relationship between infrastructural change and state-society relations through analysis of hybrid electrical configurations in South African cities. For many African governments, universal electrification now means a combination of grid and off-grid technologies. While urban geographers have noted the significance of ‘networked citizenship’ – including solidarity through use collective use and subscription to collective services – the significance of off-grid technologies for relationships between state and citizen have received less critical attention. Yet, how citizenship is mediated through hybrid electrical configurations has profound implications for the effectiveness and equity of post-network cities. Taking a socially and spatially differentiated perspective, the paper explores what the diffusion of off-grid solar photovoltaics might mean for the infrastructural citizenship of high- and low-income residents in South African cities. It places municipal policy-makers at the centre of analysis, engaging the state as the state engages with the post-network city. Comparative analysis of Johannesburg and Cape Town reveals how municipal actors evoke different notions of citizenship in planning for technological and spatial change – including rights, responsibilities, freedom, entitlement, dependency, participation, empowerment, struggle and sacrifice. It is the interplay of these ideas with the interests of municipal governments that shape how and why the cities are planning for the post-network city in different ways. I argue that analysing how infrastructure can be constitutive of citizenship means recognising that the state is neither absent and impotent nor all-powerful and predatory, but a conflicted and contested set of agents and relations. The paper concludes by reflecting on the explanatory power of different analytical frameworks as they grapple with the relationship between decentralisation and democratisation of urban energy infrastructures.

Session 2 (11:10 – 12:50) – Chair : Marie-Hélène Zérah

Socio-electric lives in Gulu Town, Uganda

Paul Munro (University of New South Wales, Australia)
In this presentation, I build on recent political ecology scholarship relating to heterogeneous infrastructure configurations to examine the dynamic geographies of urban electricity access in the Global South. As a case study, I focus on hybrid electrical configurations in Gulu Town, northern Uganda. I tell the socio-electric stories of five Gulu Town residents, showing how electricity supply is derived from an eclectic range of sources that include the grid, photovoltaic modules, dry-cell batteries and diesel generators, and how access to these sources are negotiated through local socioeconomic dynamics and broader political economy processes. These stories suggest that key to understanding heterogenous electricties is recognising the active role of urban inhabitants in negotiating infrastructure through different movements and connectivities, often within conditions of precarity. As such I argue that the urban poor are best understood as electrical bricoleurs: people who make creative and resourceful use of whatever energy materials and social connectivities that are at hand to realise their electrical needs. And through their stories, nuanced insights can be drawn in terms of into how urban infrastructure, like electricity flows, are entangled with social lives.

Electrifying the urban-rural intermediate spaces in Senegal: a diversity of electricity access providing offers at the heart of market formation?

Emmanuelle Guillou (LATTS, Université Paris Est Marne la Vallée, France)

In recent years, in sub-Saharan Africa, and more specifically in rural areas of Senegal, there has been a gradual electrification through a variety of electricity access offers ranging from connection to the conventional grid to the purchase of small individual solar devices, as well as autonomous collective electrification through diesel or hybrid mini-grids. These solutions are promoted by diverse economic actors through different socio-technical mechanisms. In Senegal, the government has set short and medium-term rural electrification targets, adopting various electrification strategies led by the Ministry of Oil and Energy and the Rural Electrification Agency, that influence the nature of the observed electric landscapes. Beside those top-down initiatives, many households opt for the purchase of photovoltaic solar panels of various sizes, prices and quality, sold by a diversity of private actors through various service relations with users.
The paper is based on field surveys conducted in Dakar and Kaolack region between 2018 and 2019, and analyzes how different electrification processes, involving a diversity of actors and socio-technical arrangements, shape the electricity landscape and participate in the
formation of a local electricity market in specific areas such as the intermediate urban-rural areas in Senegal. To what extent do users take over the diversity of electricity access modes? What is role of public action in the form of the electric landscape as it is shown?
Finally, to what extent does the electricity supply meet a heterogeneous and growing demand in these areas of diffuse urbanization?

Towards Urban Resilience? Coping with blackouts in Accra and Dar es Salaam

Joyce Angnayeli Eledi Kuusaana (TU Darmstadt, Germany)
The seamless and ubiquitous supply of infrastructure services such as electricity is usually seen as a critical backbone of modern urban societies. Yet, electricity supply in Accra and Dar es Salaam, like many other infrastructure services in cities in the global South, is commonly characterised as unreliable, unstable and unpredictable with power cuts being everyday occurrences. In both cities, major shortages in the generation of electricity have resulted in severe crises situations leading to a spatially uneven rationing of electricity supply. In the midst of such insecurities however, the criticality of such infrastructure services, and the shortfall thereof, is met with innovation, ingenious maneuvering and building of adaptive systems that allow cities to function. Based on debates on critical infrastructures and postcolonial urban studies, this paper seeks to understand the coping mechanisms of urban residents with electricity blackout situations in the cities of Accra and Dar es Salaam. It seeks to understand the criticality of electricity as a necessary component of the routines of different groups of urban dwellers and identifies the different energy constellations that function either complementary to or as alternatives to networked services. Pointing to the adaptive capacities that enable urban dwellers to prepare for power cuts but also to their unequal access to critical services, it argues for a more critical reassessment of debates on urban and infrastructural vulnerability and resilience.

Sociotechnical arrangements and delivery configurations for a multiscalar reading of a transition by hybridization?

Melanie Rateau (LATTS, Université Paris Est Marne la Vallée, France)

The presentation seeks to capture the impacts of the diversification of sociotechnical arrangements on inequalities of access to electricity in specific urban contexts. In Ibadan, Nigeria, access to electricity is characterized by failures of the conventional grid supply service. Households are equiping and organizing themselves to cope with uncertainty, while in Cotonou (Benin) the arrangements allow a « bricolé » connection to a network wich is too far away. From a fieldwork of more than eight months, in precarious, but also popular and favored neighborhoods of these two West African cities, the first objective is to look through what sociotechnical devices, households access to electricity, and what are the specific arrangements in each neighborhood and then, what are the characteristics of urban electrical configurations. The second objective is to propose a typology of socio-technical arrangements to better understand their impact on inequalities of access to electricity. And finally, it deals with questioning more generally the urban processes at work that seem to mark the electrical energy transition through diversification and increasing heterogeneity.

Call for papers at the RGS-IBG (28th-30th August 2019): Hybrid electrical configurations: from heterogeneity to reconceptualizing energy transition in Southern countries?

Solar panels on a school roof, Beirut (2019)

Royal Geography Society / Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference 28th-30th August 2019 (information here)

Panel Convenors: Eric Verdeil (Prof. of Geography and Urban Studies, Sciences Po-CERI, CNRS, Paris eric.verdeil@sciencespo.fr); Sylvy Jaglin (Prof. of Geography, Université Paris Est-Marne la Vallée, LATTS sylvy.jaglin@enpc)

This panel is sponsored by the Energy Geographies Research Group.

Session format: This double panel intends to gather 8-10 scholars enrolled in the French Research Agency funded Hybridelec, as well as other researchers from other countries investigating similar issues.

Argument: While emerging and developing countries account for 95% of the expected global urban growth by 2050, many of them are experiencing major electrical supply problems. They result from an inadequate coverage by the grid (such as in low-income Sub-Saharan African countries), from a rationed supply, power cuts and load shedding (as in major cities with growing demand), and from disconnections related to sharp increases in prices. These failures have rising socio-economic and political costs and public authorities’ priority is to increase electricity generation capacity and secure distribution. But, in many countries, results are lagging behind targets in terms of grid connection and they remain insufficient to meet demand.

Therefore, alternative responses are emerging at different scales. They are collective (eg decentralized production and isolated mini-grids) and individual (eg diverse off-grid electrification and grid-tied solar solutions); they are driven by a multiplicity of actors (cooperatives, NGOs, large and small private operators, manufacturers and entrepreneurs, households); they rely on a variety of technologies and sources, the market of diesel generators growing at the same time as the use of renewable primary energy. To reflect the multiplicity of socio-technical arrangements and forms of organization that, all together, contribute to providing electrical services in urban areas, we analyze them in terms of “hybrid electrical configurations”.


These hybrid configurations raise important questions. How are new socio-technical arrangements actually initiated and organized in practice to supply electricity? In which urban spaces are they to play a sustainable role and in what relation with the conventional network (complementarity, competition, substitution)? To what extent can this supply be sustained, expanded and scaled up to meet the diversity of users’ demands? What are their consequences for energy transition goals?

This panel has two main goals. First, to gather papers documenting the diversity of electric configurations that are emerging, not only by stressing their technological content but also their geographical and social embeddedness and effects, as well as the political struggles they face to sustain themselves. Secondly, to conceptualize this diversity and its role in the transformations of electrical systems and in energy transition trajectories in the South. Beyond the various local configurations, can we identify common trends? And if so, what is the value of the main frameworks used in socio-technical studies (such as splintering urbanism, post network cities, urban political ecology) to analyze the processes of emergence and the effects of these hybrid configurations, and what are their limits?

Interested scholars must send a 200-300 words abstract with title, author, affiliation and email address to Eric Verdeil (eric.verdeil_at_sciencespo.fr) and Sylvy Jaglin (sylvy.jaglin_at_enpc.fr) by the 10th of February at the latest.

Emerging forms of hybrid energy systems in cities of the global South: Summary of the Delhi Roundtable

Summary of Roundtable on « Emerging forms of hybrid energy systems in cities of the global South »
Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, 30th October 2018

Summary by Federico de Lorenzo and Bérénice Girard

Videos of the presentations are inserted below after the summary of each panel

Organizers and moderators: Marie-Hélène Zérah (IRD and Centre for Policy Research), Ankit Bhardwaj (Centre for Policy Research), Federico De Lorenzo (Sciences Po Paris), Augustin Delisle (Agence Française de Développement)
Speakers : Eric Verdeil (Centre for International Studies, Sciences Po Paris), Rémi de Bercegol (PRODIG, CNRS, Paris), Ankit Bhardwaj (Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi), Gaurang Sethi (Azure Power, India), Santosh Kumar Thakur (Energy Efficiency Services Limited, India)

Organized jointly by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and the Centre de Recherches Internationales (CERI, Sciences Po) and hosted by the CPR, this roundtable brought together around 30 stakeholders from urban studies and the energy sector to discuss the coevolution of electricity supply systems and urban change in the Global South and understand how the imperative of energy transition translates in cities. The roundtable gathered researchers and academics from Indian and French institutions (such as TISS, CEER, CNRS), representatives from NGOs (Centre for Science and Environment, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation), private and public companies (such as Oracle Utilities, Maxop Engineering, India Smart Grid Forum), and international organizations (such as World Bank, International Solar Alliance, European Investment Bank and the German Developement Bank -KfW).

The roundtable started with a presentation of the ANR funded Hybridelec project by É. Verdeil. As cities of the Global South are experiencing fast economic and population growth, their electricity supply systems often lag behind (cuts, load-shedding, high prices, inadequate coverage…). In this context, public policy has mostly been focused on extending the grid and augmenting supply. However, this development is often not going fast enough and alternative responses emerge both in cities and in the intermediate spaces between them (generators, solar panels, batteries – different technologies bringing new opportunities and often transformed to suit the local needs). In this context, the Hybridelec project aims at thinking together local electric supply systems and urban change by focusing more specifically on the collective solutions, often socially more structuring and technically more complex, than conventional grid provision. How are these alternatives initiated, organized and regulated? How do they sustain and extend? What are the implications for the electrical system and the objectives of energy transition? Making the hypothesis of an increased heterogeneity of these systems rather than that of a convergence, the Hybridelec project wishes to go beyond the idea of delivery palliatives and uses the concept of hybridization to look at the long-lasting process of electrification and to understand the complex assemblages of actors, technical objects and institutions contributing to changing energy systems on the ground.
R. de Bercegol then presented his work on slum electrification in Nairobi, Kenya. Though, officially, the Kibera slum does not have electricity (due to unidentified land tenure), it is electrified, as cartels provide electricity by poaching it from the conventional network. In 2014, a new electrification project was launched in Kibera by the Kenya Power Corporation, justified by the publicly-declared goal of 100% electrification by 2030 and the technical, security and financial problems the illegal poaching leads to. Though there have been tensions in the past between engineers and slum dwellers, the situation seems to have improved in recent years as the power corporation resorted to different means of ensuring the sustainability of the grid connections: involvement of cartel members in the programme ; installation of prepaid and locked meters to avoid unpaid bills and tempering ; use of aluminium instead of copper for the wires to avoid theft, etc. R. de Bercegol then turned to the societal meaning of slum electrification, by showing how prepaid meters act as a depoliticization tool in a long-lasting power struggle, but also as an instrument to formalize poor consumers. Indeed, though they take part in the regularization of slum dwellers by acknowledging their right to live in the city, they also act as disciplining and punishing tools for the poorest consumers, who are not able to afford the conventional network’s electricity. The paradoxical consequences of the arrival of the grid were also underlined, such as changes in daily practices (households going back to charcoal to cook), rapid tempering of these same meters and continued predominance of the informal system of provision.

The two papers were followed by a rich discussion which mainly focused on how to reconcile two policy paradigms often seen as contradictory, namely centralized versus decentralized energy production. Several participants called for a change of perspective, as mini-grids are often seen by distribution companies as sources of potential loss of revenue and influence, and renewable energies are mostly developed in a centralized manner. In this context, how can we ensure a change of perspective from “centralized or decentralized” to “centralized and decentralized”? Taking the case of Beirut, É. Verdeil underlined how, as solutions first seen as temporary become more and more embedded in the conventional network, we observe a shift in representations amongst NGOs, international funding agencies and even ministries. Only the national or regional utilities in charge of production and distribution are still reluctant to promote these systems. However, one can hope that as more sustainable technologies develop on the ground these same utilities will get on board. Innovative solutions to provide electricity to Kibera were also discussed, such as user group connections, solar panels bought in bulk or batteries.
Based on a joint ongoing research with F. De Lorenzo and M.H. Zérah, A. Bhardwaj’s presentation focused on Indian Smart Cities. Even if energy is not generally framed as an urban issue, the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) seems to leave scope for cities to actively shape their energy systems. Findings from the analysis of the Smart Cities proposals offer some interesting insight in what energy management in the Indian Smart City would look like. Although in the proposals cities focused mostly on basic energy infrastructures (expansion of the power network, increasing energy production, etc.), there is considerable room for low-carbon technological improvement as well. In particular, the Smart Cities will direct their efforts towards four low-carbon technologies: solar (mostly rooftop), energy-efficient street lighting, E-mobility, and waste-to-energy. Smart meters receive surprisingly small investment. However, notwithstanding the significant budget planned for the four sectors overall, most of the cities do not seem to have envisioned a global low-carbon strategy, but rather each city seems to have selected some specific area(s) of action.
Head of Business and Project Development at Azure Power, G. Sethi presented the potential and challenges of the solar rooftop sector in India from a private company perspective. He first underlined the current favourable context for solar rooftop development in India: an ambitious programme launched by the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy for the installation of 40 GW of solar projects by 2022; an estimated 124GW solar rooftop potential in India; a supportive regulation and policy framework and a growing demand, mostly coming from the government sector but also from the industrial, commercial and, to a lesser extent, from the residential sectors. He underlined the important role the government sector plays as an initiator in the market, as well as the reduction in solar power tariffs over the last few years. He then turned to challenges the sector is currently facing: a focus which remains mostly on large solar utility; limitations regarding capacity installation, as discoms do not wish to see building owners become producers of energy; a lack of coordination between Central and State governments ; different requirements and regulations from State to State, but also the existence of unfavourable charges for supply through open access and the small number of tenders released by discoms to buy solar-produced energy.
S. K. Thakur offered an overview of EESL’s action as its General Manager of the street lighting division. EESL is a joint venture of four public companies which facilitates and provides support for the implementation of energy-efficient lighting projects in India. Availability of funding to start LED projects is the main challenge that urban local bodies are faced with. EESL can take on the initial investment for them. Moreover, it has been able to bring prices of LED down dramatically through demand aggregation and bulk procurement. The Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) is one of the most successful initiatives undertook by EESL. Its target is to replace 13.4 million street lights with LED lighting in Indian towns and save 1,500 MW of energy. Drawing on its experience, EESL has adapted its business model to specific capacities of the urban local bodies and technical constraints. The agreement between EESL and local bodies includes support by the former for supply, installation, and maintenance (tasks delegated to different agencies) of the street lighting assets, other than financement. Poor infrastructures and repayment capacity of urban bodies are amongst the most common challenges the SLNP is faced with.

Throughout the second Q&A session, the debate focused on the role of urban authorities in shaping energy transitions in India, on the importance of access to accurate data, and on standards of quality of technologies. First, the view that the SCM represents an opportunity for local bodies to be leading actors of the urban energy transition, is challenged by a first-hand insight in the solar rooftop sector which shows that growth here has been primarily driven by tendering opportunities released by State and Central authorities. Second, data on the technical features of the places of transition are necessary both for authorities to set realistic targets and for implementing bodies. In particular, collection of reliable data on government buildings, along with the necessity to obtain several authorisations from the concerned bodies, represents a crucial question for Azure and the private sector in general. The complexity which Azure is faced with in implementation contrasts with EESL’s less-stringent requirement to have its agreement signed by the sole municipal commissioner. Last, while EESL’s primary concern is to expand the lighting network than meeting quality standards, in a PPA/RESCO business model (used by Azure), it is in the best interest of the developer to deliver high-quality technologies because they own the assets.

In conclusion, this roundtable showed the diversity and complexity of the possible pathways to energy transition in urban contexts. In the case of India, though use of REs is growing fast thanks to ambitious national schemes, decentralized energy production systems are facing many challenges such as a lack of capacity at the local and regional levels and paradoxical regulations and policies at the different stages of decision-making. The roundtable thus confirmed the necessity of in-depth fieldwork and continued discussions between policy-makers, stakeholders and academics to confront the mismatches between the declared ambitious objectives of energy transition and the local and technical constraints.

Observations on some hybrid energy systems in Delhi and its periphery

The Hybridelec research project started to explore the Indian reality, inparticular the city of Delhi and its southern suburb, during group visits which were conducted in the wake of the seminar co-organised by AFD, CPR and CERI on 30 October at CPR (see separate report). These field trips (Marie-Hélène Zérah,Bérénice Girard, Rémi de Bercegol, Gowda Shankare, Federico de Lorenzo, andEric Verdeil) have allowed us to identify five socio-technical setups and observe their typical ways of producing and accessing electricity.

Solar-roofed public buildings


Photovoltaic plant on the roof of NPC, Delhi (Eric Verdeil, CC)

The first setup concerns numerous public agencies and enterprises which are having solar equipment installed on their roofs. For example, in the government district of south Delhi, we visited the National Productivity Council (NPC), a public enterprise acting as a consultant which helps public agencies or enterprises to improve their productivity, including with regard to their environmental or energy policies. When we arrived, there was a power cut which, according to our hosts, was highly unusual. Nevertheless, a dedicated generator powered the lift and emergency lighting.


Other plants on the roofs of neighbouring buildings in the government district of Delhi (Eric Verdeil, CC)

Those in charge of NPC’s Environmental Management Department showed us a system of photovoltaic panels, with a total capacity of 30 kW, which had been installed on their roof in 2015. The system was connected to thehigh-voltage grid it supplied. Thus, the electricity produced was not directlyused in their building, however, NPC benefited from a reduction in itselectricity bill equivalent to the number of kW injected into the (high-voltage) grid. The electricity generated represented around 10% of thebuilding’s annual consumption (Rs. 30,000 per month) so this was a saving for the enterprise. Our interlocutors strongly emphasised the need for regular cleaning to remove the dust and maintain good production capacity. Several other buildings in the surrounding area were also equipped with solar panels of thesame type, albeit they were a lot less well maintained. Although this was not very clear, our interlocutors put forward several contributing factors behind this recent equipment:

  • a decision by the central government that tends to oblige public agencies to have this kind of systems installed;
  • the adoption of rules that favour net metering (which, however, did not apply in this case since the electricity produced was fed directly into the HV grid);
  • the project was completed with the help of a grant obtained from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy as part of the National Solar Mission initiative;  
  • another incentive for this project was the obligation to have solar panels installed in order to be considered a « green building »;
  • the financial incentives were substantial overall: the project, which cost a total of Rs 2,157,000, received Rs 647,000 in subsidies;
  • finally, a swift drop in the cost of solar panels which has halved since 2015 was another essential factor in this investment.

The policy of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for installing solar panels

The DMRC represents a second very impressive example of solar-panel installation. Wevisited a workshop depot east of the Yamuna River, in the Karampura district. Our interlocutor showed us a 100 kW plant installed on the roof but, in reality, all the roofs of the complex, including round-shaped ones which arenot very suitable, as well as, more widely, metro stations and various empty fields were covered in panels. This was the result of a series of contracts since 2015, with an installed capacity reaching 24 MW in 2018, and a new installation phase was currently under way. DMRC’s objective is to produce a part of the electricity it needs for traction and lighting. We learnt that solar production represented 30% of the daytime consumption, but only 5% for the whole day, bearing in mind that there are two peak times: early in the morning when the sun has not yet risen and in the evening when it has already set. The cleaning operation is very important but very difficult. Indeed, because train and network maintenance has to take place at night, the only time cleaners can intervene and panels can be installed is between 1 and 4 o’clock in the morning. This obviously represents a logistical, technical and safety challenge for the night workers. Upkeep and maintenance are subcontracted to the company (Sun Edison) which has installed the panels under a 25-year maintenance contract.


PV plant on the DMRC workshop roof

Aerial view of the Yamuna Bank depot, with its roofs covered in PV (Google)

Whilst the government incentives cited above applied here too, we could see that DMRC’s mobilisation went further and showed a veritable appropriation of the self-production objective in order to reduce operation costs, of which electricity represents a big proportion. Our interlocutor further stressed that the public too had a direct interest in this since a reduction in outgoings translated directly into a reduction in production costs and therefore in the fares thepublic was charged (or into a reduction in subsidies, one might think). He informed us that discussions had therefore been going on with the regulating authorities: DMRC would wish to break free of DISCOMs, who have local monopoly over the distribution of electricity, as it would like to be able to develop its own production capabilities outside Delhi. For example, it already has a supply agreement with a solar park in Madhya Pradesh (under the RESCO model) from which it buys electricity at a price lower than the DISCOM one (around Rs 2 difference), and this despite the charges imposed by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (interstate charges) and the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (intrastate charges). One may think, subject to confirmation,that this evolution of things would not be favourable to DISCOMs’ business model since, thanks to these adjustments, big industrial clients such as DMRCplay an essential role in the implementation of a policy for the social integration of small consumers (for further details see Kohler, Zerah 2013). This most definitely explains why DMRC was refused exemption from the interstate andintrastate charges. The same goes for DMRC’s failed application – it intends to reapply – to obtain a « deemed licensee » status (already granted to the railways) which would allow it to develop a strategy forachieving complete autonomy.

Gurgaon: solar condos


View of a part of the PV plant on the roof of the Wellington Estate condominium (Eric Verdeil, CC)

We witnessed another very impressive example of solar equipment in a condominium of around 500 apartments in Gurgaon, a new city south of Delhi developed in thepast 20 years to serve the needs of the tertiary industry. In the past twoyears, the estate had been investing in an initial stage of PV panels representing 200 kW. The plant covered around 50% of the roofs of the residence. Thanks to the success of the operation, a new phase is being planned.

There are several favourable factors worth mentioning: first of all, the personality of the estate’s current president seemed decisive. This businessman who had retired from the advertising sector and had nothing to occupy him (his children were abroad and his wife had her own activities) wanted to find savings for the estate and do something for the environment even though he did not define himself as an activist. As it happened, the implementation of the project had led to a reduction in costs, not least because his style of management seemed more widely geared toward the rationalisation of outgoings – lighting in the communal areas had already been switched over to LED bulbs, which had resulted in a big saving comparable to the amount saved by the solar production. Further, we can again cite the regulatory incentives (net metering, etc.). Above all else, this estate, like many of its counterparts in Gurgaon, had a long history of infrastructural autonomy. It had been equipped with water wells, which now seemed to play only a supporting role, but also with generators, which at first used to supply all the electricity within the complex. If today this production capability only played a back-up role in case of power cuts (very short ones amounting to around 10 hours a month), this was the result of the relatively recent improvements in electricity supply made by DISCOM. In this context, the solar investment was part of a continuum, even if it did not in and of itself represent a new back-up capability – the solar system could work in conjunction with the public grid or the generators, but not on its own.

Aerial view of the Wellington Estate solar plant (source: YouTube, Wellington Board, uploaded on 6 December 2017)

A truly remarkable characteristic was the estate’s desire to customise this technology and guarantee the quality of the work carried out. For this purpose, and despite the opposition of many residents, the estate’s president and a couple of other individuals involved had worked together with the selected consultant to improve the project. Indeed, they had chosen a small company (Green Roots) over a bigger one that provided only standard solutions. The president actually had an interesting view on the circumstances that would allow this solar sector to take off. According to him, there should be third-party consultants who could help residences to negotiate with the companies. Indeed, he told us that their discussions with Tata or Hero Solar had failed because they had refused any design changes or had wanted to impose their own choice of panel supplier. Finally, even though the supplier was supposed to be in charge of maintenance for five years, in reality it was the estate that would take care of the upkeep and maintenance of the plant.

In economic terms, they did not hesitate to invest for the long term by buying good-quality material and now they were able to reduce their electricity bill by 10%. They planned to use their monitoring system to optimise their plants. This was part of a wider optimisation strategy (installation of more energy-efficient ventilators, motor replacement, etc.) and in-house management, which, according to the president, explained why their outgoings were far lower than those of other Gurgaon residences. This, he maintained, would explain the end of the protests witnessed at the beginning of the project.

To what extent could this situation be replicated in other parts of the city? This question seemed all the more relevant since CPR’s work on the Smart City programme shows that the development of solar roofs is a clearly stated priority for Gurgaon. Nevertheless, according to our interlocutor, the city had not provided any support and its achievements in this area seemed more or less non-existent. Only 6 or 7 other building complexes seemed to have developed similar investment programmes, but less successfully and especially with a lower degree of customisation. And yet, the lowering of installation costs seems a powerful incentive, albeit expertise is also required, something that not all estates and their subcontractors have.

The rapid electrification of Delhi’s slums and working-class neighbourhoods

Rémide Bercegol and Gowda Shankare took us to visit two slum areas, which were also waste collection and treatment hubs. First we went to Hanuman Mandir, Rama Krishna Puram, a completely illegal neighbourhood located in a low area with a nala, an open-air sewer, running across. Many of the houses there were made of scrap materials. The collected waste, which was deposited in huge enclosures or just along the sewer, was sorted and then sent to wholesalers who would then negotiate with the recycling industries. We were greeted by the periwalah, the entrepreneur in charge of this trade, who was also the sarpanch or head of the neighbourhood. Collectors deposited their bales on a scale outside his house which measured the quantities collected every day. This dwelling, made of brick and cement with steel girders, was connected to the power grid, just as the rest of the neighbourhood was, as attested by the perfectly visible meters. Furthermore, our interlocutor received the bills and was in charge of their distribution to the residents. We found it hard to understand what the amounts quoted corresponded to, some of which seemed very high to us. Could they perhaps have been arrears?

Our host also pointed out the recently installed public lighting, which was in keeping with a national policy that had been presented to us at the CPR/AFD/CERI seminar. It involved the use of LED lights which allowed work to go on well after night had fallen.

Rémi de Bercegol highlighted that the AamAadmi (Common Man) Party’s recent access to power (the State Assembly) could explain the development of these infrastructure networks in an otherwise clearly informal neighbourhood: since this party’s coming to power in Delhi in 2012, the policy of repression against slums had lost in its intensity and certain residents who no longer feared being evicted had added an upper storey to their houses.

When asked about the consistency in supply, our interlocutor estimated that power cuts were rare and that there had been clear improvement in the past few years. However, they seemed to happen almost on a daily basis, albeit for very short periods of time and they didn’t cause any inconvenience nor did they require the acquisition of complementary devices.

The second neighbourhood was in Okhla, south Delhi. We visited several recycling workshops that dealt particularly in glass and metal. The foremen there told us that their machinery was supplied with electricity and that they were hardly disrupted by the rare power cuts. They did not have any generators.

A recently installed electric meter (Eric Verdeil, CC)

Unauthorised urbanisation on agricultural land, but the buildings were connected to the grid (Eric Verdeil, CC)

A generator outside a furniture workshop (Eric Verdeil, CC)

Behind these workshops, in an area where vegetables were still being grown, a new neighbourhood had been developing along elevated streets. Small developments,workshops, sometimes individual houses had appeared visibly fast, according to Rémi de B. and Gowda S. who had regularly been there in the past year. There too we were struck by the electrification under way, as attested by theelectricity cables and meters suspended from pylons or attached to houses. We also visited a furniture workshop which was equipped with modern machinery and supplied with electricity. A brand new generator stood grandly outside theentrance. Bought only five months previously, it was, our interlocutors told us, seldom used. Nevertheless, it was interesting that they felt the need to have aback-up plan. We also noticed an electric rickshaw whose battery was being recharged.

Urbanisation and electrification moving forward in tandem (EricVerdeil, CC)

A bit further way, on a road under construction (along a natural-gas pipeline), we had a long discussion with an estate agent about the neighbourhood’s urbanisation rationale. This urbanisation was in fact illegal as the neighbourhood was not part of the master plan. However, the agricultural land had been bought by developers who planned a (very dense) housing estate and many transactions had been conducted which, according to the agent, had been marked by various abuses. As far as access to the infrastructures was concerned, he also pointed out that electricity theft happened and was tolerated (indeed, therewere some suspicious-looking connections attached to a cable just behind us) and that, whilst the electricity distribution company had equipped the neighbourhood, the same could not be said for the supply of water which depended on a public operator. Hence residents relied on drilling into the water table.

« Bengali » camp. The satellite dish no longer workedfollowing the disconnection of an illegal electrical network by thedistribution company (Eric Verdeil, CC)

We continued our field trip by going through nearby areas inhabited by migrantswho called themselves « Bengali » but who were very likely illegalimmigrants from Bangladesh. They too were involved in waste collection and sorting for the purposes of recycling. These populations’ situation was extremely precarious and their camp dwellings were equally very basic: wood, sheet metal, fabric, plastic. We noticed a communal water point (a hand pumpwhich it was unclear whether it pumped from the water table or the nearby public network of the resettlement-colony of Madanpur). We noticed a satellite dish outside a dwelling but the residents told us it no longer worked as the electric connections they had installed had been withdrawn by the distribution company after a fire had been started by a short circuit in another camp.

These visits in slums and working-class neighbourhoods showed that electrification was advancing very fast, despite the areas’ land situation. Furthermore, theimprovement in supply meant that residents seemed to rely mainly on electricity– if they could afford it – without needing other sources of electricity production.

Dharuhera: hybrid setups in the development corridor south of Delhi

Former Rajput palace in Dharuhera (Eric Verdeil, CC)

This rapidly growing town (around 35,000 inhabitants currently, compared to 18,000 in 2011) is located in a development corridor south of Delhi: it is home to industrial areas and residences meant for middle classes and workers linked to these new economic activities. Its social and physical structure is marked by the juxtaposition of these new groups with the old village. Politically, a family of landowners, which used to be linked with the British (they organised the conscription), dominates the municipal bodies. As it happened, we were received in turn by the former mayor in his villa, then by his aunt, the current mayor, in her big modern house in the village centre, close to the neglected former palace.}

The council had recently been modernised. It occupies a big modern building where we met the executive secretary who was in fact a representative of the state. There too we learnt that the electricity supply had improved considerably and that power cuts were residual. Nevertheless, a generator outside the building had to regularly be switched on. Our municipal interlocutors mentioned the development of photovoltaic panels and the incentives from or even obligation by the stateto have them installed. The council was therefore looking at the possibility of installing them on its roof and even considered having a bigger-sized plant so as to draw additional income from it. However, we noticed that within the council there was little technical and legal grasp of these issues. We were told about an owner who apparently had had panels installed in the town and about several plants in the surrounding villages. Even if there seemed to be awell-established installer in the area (whom we were unable to meet), we saw few panels on top of the buildings. Further investigations would be required.


Urban landscape in Dharuhera (E. Verdeil, CC)}


Waste ground and, in the background, urbanisation in the form of apartment blocks in Dharuhera (E. Verdeil, CC)


A first converging observation concerns the impressive improvement in the access to electricity, in keeping with the increase in electricity production and the extension of the distribution networks. The once chronic power cuts seem today to be residual. Back-up practices are still in use by a proportion of the companies and of the middle- or upper-class households (generators, inverters) but do not concern the poorest.

The second major factor is the arrival of photovoltaic plants for production at an individual or a company and condominium level, in response to state incentives and regulatory changes, but also in order to benefit from the economic advantages provided by this increasingly approachable technology. We may well wonder whether a habit of managing shortages and disrupted supply represents afactor that favours investment in these technologies.

Report written by Eric Verdeil with additional material by Bérénice Girard, Rémi de Bercegol and Marie-Hélène Zérah.Translated from the French by Monica Biberson thanks to AFD funding to Sciences Po-CERI.

Round Table Emerging Forms of Hybrid Energy Systems in Cities of the Global South at CPR, Dehli

CPR, in partnership with AFD and CERI-Sciences Po, has organised this round table on Emerging forms of hybrid energy systems in cities of the global South
Ankit Bhardwaj, Centre for Policy Research
Marie-Hélène Zérah, IRD and Centre for Policy Research

Eric Verdeil, Centre for International Studies, Sciences Po Paris
Rémi de Bercegol, PRODIG, CNRS, Paris
Santosh Kumar Thakur,General Manager, Street Lighting division, EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limite)
Gaurang Sethi, Head Business Development, Azure PowerTuesday, 30 October 2018, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Conference Hall, Centre for Policy Research
Continuer la lecture de « Round Table Emerging Forms of Hybrid Energy Systems in Cities of the Global South at CPR, Dehli »

[Published] Infrastructure crises in Beirut and the struggle to (not) reform the Lebanese State

In a recent interview for Jadaliyya, I presented this article published in the Arab Studies Journal (#1, 2018).

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this article?

Eric Verdeil (EV): Until recently, the prolific urban research on Beirut and Lebanese cities ignored, almost entirely, issues related to networked infrastructure, a very strange fact given the magnitude of infrastructure deficiencies in the country. Only recently have scholars (like Ziad Abu-Rish or Joanne R. Nuchofor example) begun to address infrastructure related issues, particularly as they relate to electricity. Water management also remains mostly out of the scope of urban scholarship in Lebanon, which has instead concentrated on reconstruction, housing, and urban conflict. Additionally, questions regarding waste management and sanitation have also remained largely absent from the research. This article addresses these three ongoing infrastructure crises in the Greater Beirut.

The article was initially a response to the call for papers launched by Hannes Baumann and Jamil Mouawad, under the title “Wayn al-Dawla? In search of the Lebanese state.” Baumann and Mouawad’s idea was to challenge the common (and somewhat lazy) notion of a weak state in Lebanon. They highlighted the inputs of mid-range theories that show how state institutions are part of a wider landscape of powers that interact with the state, often displaying “hybrid sovereignties.” Baumann and Mouawad personally chose to analyze the Central Bank and the Lebanese Army in the light of Marxist and Foucaldian approaches, thus showing how the state is at times able to reconfigure local capitalism, or to produce a “state effect,” for instance, in Akkar. They suggested that I write about electricity and the state in Lebanon, specifically about the fact that electricity has become the paradoxical symbol of the existence/absence of the state: “ejit al dawleh,” say the people when the electricity comes back after a power cut. Due to lengthy revisions on both sides, the article eventually appeared one year after the theme issue was released.

For me, it was also an opportunity to translate and adapt the results of a research project I had undertaken about the governance of urban infrastructure in Beirut in the framework of a project led by sociologist Dominique Lorrain on Mediterranean Metropolises. The general objective of this research was to take seriously the materiality of the city, including infrastructure, and to test the hypothesis that even when political institutions fail to govern the city, as seen when violent conflicts erupt, infrastructure provides some minimal level of consensus and agreement that allows for urban life to go on. At first glance, this hypothesis was far from obvious in the case of Beirut, but it provided an interesting chance to understand where the Lebanese state is when infrastructure fails.

Read the end of the interview on Jadaliyya.

The article will be in Open Access from the HAL-SHS repository starting November 2018.

Electricity Subsidies in Lebanon: Benefiting some Regions More than Others – analysis featured on the LCPS website

Eric Verdeil’s analysis of electricity subsidies in Lebanon is featured on the website of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

While the recent political showdown over where to connect the Esra Gul barge to Lebanon’s power grid is indicative of the country’s unequal electricity supply, it also unearthed something more fundamental, namely, how electricity subsidies exacerbate geographical and social inequalities. Indeed, one major problem facing Electricité Du Liban (EDL) concerns the fact that production costs exceed revenues from consumers. For many years, the difference has been covered/subsidized by the state but these subsidies impact citizens differently depending on where they reside.

More precisely, because the periphery have access to a smaller supply of electricity per day, they incur greater generator use costs than those living in the central agglomeration, particularly   municipal Beirut. Consequently, my recent study demonstrates that effective subsidies disproportionately benefit wealthier households and in particular those who live in Beirut, as the latter are supplied with more power on a daily basis compared to other regions.[1] Therefore, electricity subsidies exacerbate both geographical and social inequalities.

While the production cost of electricity—indexed to the international hydrocarbon market—has significantly increased since 1994, prices have not been reevaluated in that period. According to the National Electricity Strategy Plan of 2010, the price represented on average only 55% of the production cost per kilowatt hour. While the price structure should reflect a principle of fairness and employ progressive rates designed to ease the burden for small consumers—among whom are the country’s poorest people—a 2009 World Bank study reported the opposite. In fact, fixed costs added onto an EDL bill resulted in small consumers (who use up to 300 kilowatt hours) paying disproportionately more of their income toward energy bills than larger users. Practically, the more they consume, the more users are subsidized by the state. This is not an open and deliberate subsidy, but rather a largely unseen mechanism at work.

In fact, the study highlights geographic variances that result from the length of time that power is supplied. This adds an essential component to the distortion caused by this effective subsidy. Since 2006­-2007, Beirut has received on average nineteen to twenty-one hours of electricity per day, while other regions have received only twelve to fifteen hours if not less (depending on the time of year and in which year data was gathered). The capital’s residents use more public electricity by default and consequently benefit more from subsidies.


Read the end of the article on the LCPS website. The translation of this article has been made possible thanks to the financial support of AFD.

A French longer version, including the detailed data, is to be read on Rumor, Eric Verdeil’s own blog.

Appel à candidature : contrat doctoral de 3 ans sur l’hybridation des systèmes d’infrastructure urbaine au Liban

Mise à jour : date limite de remise du dossier repoussée au 14 mai à midi (12h)

Au Liban, le dysfonctionnement durable des infrastructures a conduit les populations et les entreprises à s’adapter. De multiples arrangements socio-techniques permettent d’accéder à l’électricité, à l’eau ou de collecter les ordures. Dans le cadre du projet Hybridelec, financé par l’Agence nationale de la recherche, nous proposons de comprendre ces arrangements à travers la notion d’hybridation. Ce terme vise à rendre compte de la diversification des configurations de fourniture, tant dans leur dimension technique que socio-politique, et en même temps des interrelations entre ces dispositifs hybrides et les solutions conventionnelles qui continuent de guider l’action publique, à travers la référence maintenue aux infrastructures en réseau avec leurs logiques industrielles et leurs gestion centralisée.

Un contrat doctoral qui commencera en septembre 2018 a vocation à étudier cette question Continuer la lecture de « Appel à candidature : contrat doctoral de 3 ans sur l’hybridation des systèmes d’infrastructure urbaine au Liban »

LATTS: Laboratoire Techniques Territoires Société (English presentation)

LATTS (Laboratoire Techniques Territoires Société) is a renowned international laboratory for the study of interrelations infrastructure-society, both North and South (Paris-Est University). It associates Social Sciences, Economics and Engineering. It is part of the LABEX Urban Futures, a Cluster of Excellence based at Paris-Est University and dedicated to urban issues, with a strong emphasis on the collaboration of engineering sciences, environment sciences and social sciences.
Professor of Geography Sylvy Jaglin will co-manage the scientific track of the project, which expends the TERMOS / GOUVENUS project (2010-2013). She led several researches on the socio-technical governance of urban services, including electricity, in Africa (Jaglin 2016; Jaglin 2017; Dubresson et Jaglin 2016; Jaglin 2013). She supervises the thesis of Mélanie Rateau (starting 2016) on electrification in Benin and Nigeria. She is also supervising Emmanuelle Guillou’s PhD, funded jointly by the firm Hydroconseil and the National Agency for Research and Technology on mini networks in two African countries.
Marie-Helene Zerah (IRD, currently seconded to India) will work with LATTS in the project. In addition to her own research on the electrification of Dehli’s outskirt in Haryana State, she will supervise a post-doc who will do research on small in India (Bihar). Leading socio-economist of energy research director Olivier Coutard will provide his expertise during the workshops.

Marie-Hélène Zérah soutient son HDR : Penser la diversité urbaine : une analyse par les services essentiels en Inde

Marie-Hélène Zérah, participante au projet Hybridelec, soutient son HDR intitulée Penser la diversité urbaine : une analyse par les services essentiels en Inde le 9 février à 14 h à l’Université Paris-Est / Marne la Vallée.

Bâtiment Bienvenüe (IFFSTAR) 14-20 Boulevard Newton

Cité Descartes 77420 Champs-sur-Marne

Salle mlv-11b021/mlv-12b023

Le jury se compose de:

Mme Sylvie Fol, Professeur des Universités (Aménagement de l’espace, Urbanisme), Université Paris I, Panthéon Sorbonne (rapporteure)

Patrick Heller, Professor, Department of Sociology and Watson Institute, Brown University

Mme Sylvy Jaglin, Professeur des Universités (Aménagement de l’espace, Urbanisme), Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée (garante)

Mme Loraine Kennedy, Directrice de Recherche CNRS, CEIAS (Centre d’Études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud)

Mme Jennifer Robinson, Professor, Department of Geography, University College London (rapporteure)

Eric Verdeil, Professeur des Universités (Géographie et Etudes Urbaines), Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (rapporteur)


Cet essai contribue à une réflexion générale sur la diversité des mondes urbains à partir d’une analyse centrée sur la variété des arrangements dans la production et la gestion des services essentiels (eau, assainissement et électricité) en Inde. Il a trois ambitions principales.
La première est de saisir, au prisme des services urbains, les multiples facettes du processus d’urbanisation, depuis le début des années 1990, du pays abritant la deuxième plus grande population urbaine au monde. Dans la mouvance du renouveau des études urbaines porté par les chercheurs travaillant sur les « Suds », ce texte suit une démarche comparative. Il est
mené sur la base d’une analyse résolument empirique et ancrée dans la profondeur des territoires. Cette exploration au sein de la diversité des espaces urbains, dans un gradient allant de la grande métropole aux gros bourgs ruraux urbanisés, démontre que le biais métropolitain donne à voir une vision amputée et erronée de l’urbanisation indienne. La comparaison à l’échelle nationale permet une lecture plus riche et complexe des transformations sociales, des mutations démographiques et économiques, des formes de l’urbanisation, de l’impact des réformes néolibérales et des formes d’insertion des villes, et donc de l’Inde, dans la mondialisation.
La seconde ambition est de mettre au jour les soubassements et les caractéristiques de cette diversité, dans ses lieux, ses formes et ses dynamiques. Cet essai défend l’idée que les mutations observées sont imputables à des articulations variées, localisées et contingentes
entre différents régimes explicatifs ce que l’analyse par les services essentiels aide à décrypter.
Cette démonstration est faite en combinant des résultats sur (i) l’hybridation des discours et des modalités de l’action publique sous l’influence des modèles internationaux ; (ii) les ressorts et les régimes de justification de l’émergence et de la variété des formes de
capitalismes urbains ; et, (iii) sur les pratiques ordinaires et les mobilisations collectives des usagers pour accéder et défendre leur droit aux services urbains, en s’intéressant à ce que l’expression de ces pratiques révèle des fractures sociales qui traversent la société urbaine.
Cette démarche multidimensionnelle, qui emprunte à plusieurs corpus, permet de dépasser des explications univoques et normatives sur les liens entre transition urbaine et néolibéralisme en insistant sur la variété des trajectoires.
La troisième ambition vise à engager un dialogue constructif avec certains travaux menés en géographie urbaine critique, à en nuancer les résultats et à apporter un nouvel éclairage. D’une part, ce texte discute les apports de la « Southern theory » dont l’objectif est de décentrer les études urbaines menées au Nord en prônant une nouvelle forme d’urbanisme comparatif. Il démontre qu’en privilégiant les comparaisons entre grandes villes (comparaisons Nord/Sud et plus récemment Sud/Sud), l’urbanisme comparatif n’embrasse pas l’ensemble des mutations en cours et ne prend pas la mesure des transformations et des innovations localisées hors des métropoles. D’autre part, il questionne les propositions récentes autour d’une planétarisation de l’urbanisation qui rendrait caduques les frontières
entre le rural et l’urbain. Cet essai rejoint certaines conclusions relatives à l’effacement des frontières et à l’expansion de l’urbanisation. Néanmoins, il souligne la contingence et l’autonomie de logiques locales qui font la ville, à contre-courant d’une analyse mettant en avant la dépendance des espaces en voie d’urbanisation au phénomène d’agglomération. Face à ces deux paradigmes dominants, le cas de l’Inde offre une hétérogénéité de situations démontrant que, dans les limites actuelles des recherches qu’elles suscitent, les voies tracées par ces courants de pensée sont des sources d’inspiration encore insuffisantes pour penser le fait urbain dans sa diversité.

Emerging countries, cities and energy. Questioning transitions

This recently published chapter is one of the cornerstones on which the project Hybridelect is based:  Sylvy Jaglin, Éric Verdeil. 2017, Emerging countries, cities and energy. Questioning transitions. in Stefan Bouzarovski; Martin J Pasqualetti; Vanesa Castán Broto (eds.). The Routledge Research Companion to Energy Geographies, Routledge, pp.106-120.

Here is the introduction. Continuer la lecture de « Emerging countries, cities and energy. Questioning transitions »

Hybridelec: Objectives of the research

Pico-grid et kit photovoltaïque, Cotonou, Bénin (photo Mélanie Rateau, 2017)

The Hybridelec research is adressing the issue of the hybridization of electrification configurations in »Southern Cities » fuelled by the emergence of off-grid devices and logics of unachieved « infrastructuralisation ». By hybridization, we mean the coalescence – technically and politically complex – of various technical worlds of production, distribution and power consumption, of different scales, isolated or interconnected at the margin. Such processes are currently overlooked by research foscusing on rural electrification and research concentrating on new technologies implemented in a few spaces in big metropolis of the developping and emerging countries. Continuer la lecture de « Hybridelec: Objectives of the research »