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”.

Questions:

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.