Journal Article


What is 'local' about smart local energy systems? Emerging stakeholder geographies of decentralised energy in the United Kingdom

Abstract

As governments worldwide address the climate crisis, energy systems are becoming both decarbonised and decentralised. In this study, we aim to increase understanding of the spatial dimensions of new forms of decentralised energy systems that integrate electricity, storage, transportation, and heating. Drawing on workshops and secondary data from three, early-stage case studies funded under a UK government programme, we examine how stakeholders responsible for development construct the ‘local’ in Smart Local Energy System (SLES) demonstrators. We employ three analytical concepts to address this aim: emplacement, place-framing, and place/boundary-making. In terms of emplacement, stakeholders use place-based narratives that draw on distinctive infrastructural, social, ecological, and political characteristics to argue that diverse locations (Oxford city, Oxfordshire, and the Orkney Islands) are ‘suitable’ places for decentralised energy. Stakeholders frame projects around non-local goals of creating technological and business models for replication across the UK and worldwide, even if some community-centred benefits are recognized. Lastly, our findings on place-making show pragmatism in flexing ‘local’ boundaries in order to align with project objectives. The three analytical concepts provide a useful framework to uncover ‘local’ complexities of early-stage decentralised energy projects, and emphasise intersections of space, place, and justice that deserve further scrutiny, notably in later stages of project implementation.

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Authors

Walker, Chad
Devine-Wright, Patrick
Rohse, Melanie
Gooding, Luke
Devine-Wright, Hannah
Gupta, Rajat

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Architecture

Dates

Year of publication: 2021
Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-08-05


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License


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