Questions d’énergie à la Royal Geographical Society Conference 2017

Je participerai à deux panels à la Royal Geographical Society Conference 2017 à Londres le 30 août prochain.

Le premier panel s’intitule Scar-Cities: Middle East urbanisms between violent environments and disrupted governance et est organisé par Nathan Marom. Mon papier s’intitule:

« Securitizing urban electricity supply: a political ecology perspective on Jordanian and Lebanese cases »

Un générateur électrique de la société privée Kahraba Jbeil, ou quand le capitalisme familial impose son monopole

Building upon the concept of urban political ecology (Swyngedouw 2006), I apply this framework to the understanding of the flows of energy in the cities of Beirut and Amman and specifically to electricity. Supplying these cities with electricity implies the creation of new circuits that are both material and socio-political. In Amman, one of the projects elaborated to cope with the growth of energy demand is to build a nuclear plant in the « desert » nearby Amman. This project, now allegedly in the final studies, has experienced many episodes and delays. In Lebanon, the citizens facing regular and long lasting blackouts have been relying for more than twenty years on generators operated by various local, mostly informal and commercial-oriented small firms, and now local capitalist companies seeking to push a privatization policy. At a 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 local actors but that, at the same time, erode solidarity at the city and national level.

Ce papier reprend un chapitre en cours de publication dans le Routledge Handbook for Middle Eastern Cities, dirigé par Haim Yacobi et Nsasra Mansour.

Dans ce même panel, Elvan Arik présentera des éléments de son travail sur les nouvelles géoraphies du chauffage à Istanbul: Heating scarcity: natural gas and the politics of unjust energy transition in Istanbul

Mon deuxième panel sera Urban Energy in the Global South. J’y présenterai avec Sylvy Jaglin le papier suivant : « Electric hybrids: emerging forms of energy transition in southern cities ». Il s’agit d’introduire un projet qui vient d’être financé l’ANR (p.19), excellente nouvelle pour les quatre années à venir… Voici le résumé:

Cities in the developing and emerging countries experience many problems of electricity supply, which conventional responses such as extending the grid cannot fix. Therefore, collective and individual alternatives develop, such as decentralized and hybrid systems. Applying the concept of hybridization to socio-technical studies, the paper articulates a proposition to study them and to evaluate their impact on the future of the electricity system, assuming they represent an emerging but unstudied form of energy transition. This paper exposes the hypotheses that guide a 4-year research which intends to empirically study these emerging configurations (by surveying the actors of the market and the regulation practices) and assess their impact on usual understandings of the transition. We review three main paradigms that have dominated energy research in the South (rural electrification and off-grid contribution; the post-networked city; the infrastructuralisation hypothesis) and we develop our own hypothesis: that of a long lasting hybridization of electrification configurations fueled by the emergence of off-grid devices and logics of unachieved « infrastructuralisation ». This hybridization hypothesis differs from assumptions of substitution as well as from ideas of « incremental infrastructure » or « deliverance palliative », based on the idea of improvisation and social collaboration, which refers mainly to « practical norms”, such as the electric poaching. Our proposal instead focuses on the emergence of collective solutions, socially more structuring, technically more complex and temporally more durable. The main challenge is not technical (solutions exist and new ones are always invented) or social (in spite of poverty), it relates to the association between the two: that is to say their assemblage into functional socio-technical systems of supply and the strength of institutions in charge of their management and their regulation. Our hypothesis goes that there is no single assemblage model, each being enshrined in its environment. Our presentation will illustrate the potential of the hypothesis based on cases in Lebanon and South Africa, and present other fieldwork where we intend to develop it.

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