Archives de catégorie : énergie

[Parution] Instruments et territoires de la gouvernance des déchets au Liban

La décharge de Zahlé (Liban) – photo Eric Verdeil, 2019 (cc)

J’ai le plaisir de signaler la parution d’un article coécrit avec Jihad Farah, dans le cadre du numéro thématique « Penser le politique par les déchets » coordonné par Fabrizio Maccaglia et Claudia Cirelli pour Géocarrefour. Voici la référence exacte et le lien vers l’article en accès libre:

Farah Jihad et Verdeil Éric, 2021, « Instruments et territoires de la gouvernance des déchets au Liban », Géocarrefour, 2021, vol. 95, no 1, p. 1‑29.

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Transformations énergétiques collectives : présentation à la librairie Volume, Paris

La revue multitudes a le plaisir de vous inviter le 25 mars 2020 à 19 heures à la rencontre organisée autour des Transformations énergétiques collectives avec les auteurs Alain Nadai, Grégoire Wallenborn, Éric Verdeil et Fréderic Brun, Anne Querrien, Gaëtane Lamarche-Vadel de multitudes
Librairie VOLUME
47, rue de Nazareth
75003 Paris

Télécharger le prospectus de présentation de ce numéro (PDF).


L’idée d’une « transition » énergétique, processus pilotable dans un monde relativement stable et anticipable, semble arriver à son terme. Même le GIEC en appelle désormais à des « transformations » énergétiques rapides et radicales. Toutefois, malgré la prise de conscience de l’urgence climatique et de la perte dramatique de biodiversité, qui s’actualise notamment dans une série de manifestations et de luttes, la question du climat est trop rarement articulée à la question de l’énergie. Dans cette Majeure, nous explorons ce que pourraient vouloir dire ces transformations énergétiques et partons à la recherche des bonnes échelles pour agir et des récits pertinents pour inspirer les collectifs.

Articles de la majeure

Résumé de notre article

Cet article propose d’élargir le débat sur la transition énergétique au-delà du contexte occidental. Partant d’études de cas situées dans deux métropoles des Suds, la réflexion invite à nuancer les scénarios normatifs et supposés universels de transformation des systèmes énergétiques pour confronter les transitions aux singularités des sociétés et des territoires dans lesquels elles prennent forme. Ainsi s’aperçoit-on que les discours sur le changement climatique global ont bien moins d’effets d’entraînement sur les trajectoires énergétiques d’Istanbul et du Cap que l’impact de crises écologiques plus locales ou que l’évolution de compromis socio-politiques, toujours fragiles et dépendants d’héritages historiques nationaux.

Arab Sustainable Urbanism: Worlding Strategies, Local Struggles

BiClean, centre de tri secondaire, géré par la municipalité de Bikfaya, Liban (2019)

I am happy to announce the release of a new article discussing sustainability in the Arab world. It is part of a set of reflections based on litterature review and short field trips I have documented over the years, and it develops in particular my recent take in Energy World and last year’s conference paper on Wise cities in the Mediterranean. I would like to thank Steffen Wippel and Christian Steiner who invited me to contribute on this topic in their edited theme issue for Middle East-Topics & Arguments on Urban Development. It also comes as an answer to Christian Beier’s piece « Worlding Cities in the Middle East and North Africa – Arguments for a Conceptual Turn« .

Here is the summary of this short piece: Arab Sustainable Urbanism: Worlding Strategies, Local Struggles

Despite strong warnings, Arab cities seem reluctant to embark in ambitious schemes addressing sustainability issues. The article draws on a literature review to highlight two arguments. Firstly state-led governance prioritizes in most urban settings social stability and claims to modern and resource-consuming comfort. It tends to favor private interests, which conceives sustainability as a business and marginalizes local authorities and even more, civic movements including green parties and associations. Secondly, the dominant framings of sustainability tend to focus on global transitions (GHG emissions and low carbon energy), hence overlooking local claims for sustainability that do not fit in the global environmental narratives, thus dismissing it. Nonetheless, these issues represent key motivations for the local definition of a sustainable urban future.

Sustainable urbanization in the Gulf?

This short article was published in World Energy #42 April 2019

Eric Verdeil

Since 1987 and the release of the Bruntland Report about Sustainable Development, concerns over climate change, biodiversity and other global threats have grown. Urbanization is at the core of global anxiety. Urban population, as recorded by the UN, now reaches 4.2 billion, ie 55% of the total and is expected to grow by 2,5 billion in 2050. This tremendous growth consumes huge level of resources and emits about 75% of world Green house gases. Cities are a major factor of unsustainability, and the same time cities and urban dwellers increasingly suffer from global environmental changes. Gulf cities are no exception. Record breaking temperatures in Kuwait in 2016 highlighted the unbearable summer heats Gulf cities are facing and will have to cope with. Sea-level rise or extreme rainy events also might affect the future of cities in this region.

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

EDL headquarters in Beirut

I am happy to announce the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies has featured my analysis about electricity subsidies in Lebanon on its website.

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.

A French longer version, including the detailed data, is to be read on this blog.

Publication récente (1) : Energy Transition and Urban Governance in the Arab World

Masdar City

J’ai le plaisir d’annoncer la parution de cette communication lors du colloque Wise Cities in the Mediterranean organisée par la Kuwait Program de Sciences Po, dont les actes peuvent être lus en ligne ici. Voici le résumé de ma communication:

The 2015 Paris Agreement and the recent Quito New Urban Agenda both emphasised the need to empower cities in climate change policies, including energy policies that aim at energy transitions towards more energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies. Being both factors in and potential victims of climate change, cities have many reasons to act. Therefore, there is a need to examine how changes in urban governance could indeed address this necessity and the challenge cities have to face. This issue has been addressed in many studies and plans for cities in the Western and advanced industrial world. These first studies have highlighted several results. Firstly, instead of considering only climate change issues, they stressed the need to understand ecological pressures more widely, particularly the way global energy pressures, like peak oil threats or price increases have created energy stress for cities. Secondly, they also underlined how privatisation trends and the ascent of transnational energy firms reconfigured energy regulation by sidelining public energy utilities and companies. Thirdly, metropolisation, the concentration of wealth and power in the big metropolises, transforms urban governance. The role of states in energy regulation is thus undermined and metropolitan coalitions are more diverse and open to private and as well as local urban interests. Green growth becomes a new market for private firms, and metropolitan governments compete for jobs and investments in the sector. At the same time, ensuring the continuity of energy supply or of other infrastructure is another goal for metropolitan firms and authorities. This leads to new agendas, including local policies of energy transition, which combine the promotion of renewable energies and energy efficiency with the shortening of energy circuits. However, several factors that are favouring these changes in energy governance seem to be specific to world cities and might not apply in other contexts. The increasing – albeit contested – political autonomisation of such cities in their relation to national states and their specific wealth are cases in point. My goal in this chapter is to look at Arab cities, for which, at a first glance, energy transition initiatives seem difficult to identify. My chapter draws on a wide collective analysis of urban energy transition policies in ten metropolises from emerging economies, including several Arab cities such as Amman, Beirut, Tunis and Sfax (Jaglin and Verdeil, 2017; Verdeil et al., 2015; Verdeil, 2014a; 2016; forthcoming), and on secondary literature about the United Arab Emirates. It aims to propose some preliminary observations and to raise questions to fuel the upcoming debate. I will not present case studies but rather identify policy issues and policy options that vary greatly according to context and, above all, according to the national availability of fossil energy such as oil and gas and the social contracts that govern the redistribution of this wealth in exchange for loyalty.

Continuer la lecture

Subventions électriques invisibles: le privilège beyrouthin

Le Liban se classe parmi les pires pays du monde en termes de fourniture électrique [1]. L’insuffisance de la production électrique se traduit par un rationnement qui atteint plus de 12 h /j dans une large partie du pays. Cette situation date de la guerre civile. Après une période d’amélioration grâce aux investissements dans de nouvelles centrales électriques et dans le réseau des années 1990, la situation s’est de nouveau dégradée à partir de 2006. Malgré le plan du ministre Gebran Bassil en 2010, peu d’améliorations ont été apportées, les investissements réalisés et les nouvelles capacités mises en ligne (en 2017) ne compensant pas l’augmentation de la demande, qui n’est satisfaite que grâce au développement de la génération privée.

Les dysfonctionnements du secteur électrique libanais pèsent lourdement sur les ménages et les agents économiques. De plus, l’électricité est la première source du déficit public libanais. Elle représentait en 2013 40% de la dette publique cumulée et 55% du déficit budgétaire. Le déficit s’explique par diverses raisons. La mauvaise gestion technique et commerciale de l’entreprise est une première explication des pertes: les pertes techniques se montent à environ 15%, les pertes non techniques atteignant elles 25%. 40% de l’énergie produite n’est donc pas payée. Toutefois, il faut aussi mentionner la structure du tarif de l’électricité qui ne reflète pas ses couts de revient. En effet, le tarif moyen par KWh est de 141 LL en 2007, alors que le cout de production est estimé à 255 LL/KWh en 2009. Autrement dit, en moyenne, l’abonné ne paye que 55% du cout de revient. Ce désajustement du tarif par rapport aux couts explique donc aussi une partie importante du déficit de l’entreprise.

Les discussions publiques se focalisent, ces dernières années, sur la construction de nouvelles capacités de production pour mettre fin au rationnement, et sur les modalités de financement de ces investissements : faut-il investir de l’argent public, et où le trouver? ou mettre à contribution le secteur privé, mais alors à quelles conditions? Dans la période précédente, la problématique du vol et de la fraude était aussi fortement mise en avant[2]. Ces débats laissent largement de côté la question de la tarification. Le gouvernement considère que le réajustement ne pourrait intervenir qu’une fois l’amélioration du système bien amorcée, rendant une hausse de tarif plus acceptable. En attendant, le désajustement du tarif constitue une subvention de facto, dont les effets ont rarement été examiné.

Comme dans de nombreux pays en développement, la tarification d’EDL est en marches d’escalier, chaque palier (ou bloc) de consommation étant facturé à un certain prix, dans un objectif d’équité sociale. Toutefois, seule la tranche au-delà de 500 kWH est facturée à un prix supérieur au prix de revient, alors qu’elle ne représente qu’une petite fraction de la consommation[3]. A cette tarification variable s’ajoute une partie fixe et des taxes. Les études de la Banque Mondiale (2009) ont mis en évidence qu’en réalité, cette tarification n’était pas progressive car le poids des charges fixes pèse très lourdement sur les ménages qui consomment peu.

Dans cette note, j’examine une autre distorsion, spatiale, liée à cette tarification. Le Liban se caractérise en effet par des inégalités géographiques dans les dotations en courant. Beyrouth, la capitale, reçoit une dotation en courant nettement plus longue que les autres régions. En moyenne, elle ne subit que 3 à 4 h de coupures, les autres régions recevant moins de 15h, parfois moins. Cette distorsion n’est pas seulement de nature géographique mais aussi sociale : en effet les résidents de Beyrouth sont en moyenne d’un niveau socio-économique plus élevé. Plus riches, plus équipés, mieux dotés en électricité, ils consomment davantage. Or, étant donné la structure des tarifs, plus ils consomment, plus ils coûtent à l’EDL. Le raisonnement est connu et parfois mentionné. En revanche, à ma connaissance il n’a jamais été estimé précisément. Je propose ici d’essayer de caractériser cette distorsion. Continuer la lecture

Lancement du programme de recherche Hybridelec

Beyrouth, Achrafieh : ensemble de générateurs formant une véritable petite centrale électrique au cœur d’un quartier résidentiel de la capitale (mai 2017)

J’ai le plaisir d’annoncer le lancement d’Hybridelec, que je dirige avec l’appui de Sylvy Jaglin. Il s’agit d’une nouvelle recherche? financée par l’ANR (Défi 2 consacré à l’énergie). Elle est consacrée à l’hybridation des systèmes électriques dans les villes des pays en développement et émergents. Celles-ci 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, la recherche propose d’étudier ces nouvelles configurations, qui restent mal connues, et leurs impacts sur le futur du système électrique. D’une durée de 4 ans, la recherche étudiera empiriquement ces systèmes (par enquête auprès des acteurs du marché et analyse des pratiques de régulation) et examinera leur impact sur les conceptions usuelles de la transition énergétique.

L’équipe regroupe des chercheurs du CERI-Sciences Po, du LATTS-Université de Marne-la-Vallée et de PRODIG-Université Paris I/CNRS/IRD. Les terrains seront situés en Afrique subsahariene (Mali, Nigérias, Tchad, Burkina-Faso, Tanzanie, Afrique du Sud, et peut d’autres), en Asie du Sud (Inde et Pakistan) et au Moyen Orient (Liban). Nous avons prévu de recruter prochainement un postdoc pour travailler en Inde et un doctorant pour travailler au Liban.

Un carnet accompagnera le développement de cette recherche, que je vous invite à consulter dès maintenant.

Pour les lecteurs de ce blog, précisons que cette recherche prolonge les recherches entreprises au Liban depuis plusieurs années sur la gestion de la pénurie électrique grâce notamment aux générateurs (voir en particulier ces références: Verdeil 2009, Gabillet 2010, Verdeil 2016). Elle s’inscrit par ailleurs dans le prolongement d’une collective précédente, coordonnée par Sylvy Jaglin, TERMOS (Trajectoires énergétiques des métropoles du Sud) dont des résultats détaillés ont été publiés dans la revue Flux en 2013 (voir l’introduction du dossier et une version en anglais).

PhD Position on Eastern Mediterranean oil and gas discoveries, regional geopolitics and economic development issues (part of the SALGIANT project)

Update: this call has been extended until the 21th september 2018. Look at the new call on this link or here.

I am pleased to announce the launch of the SALGIANT network and more specifically the research task Eastern Mediterranean oil and gas discoveries, regional geopolitics and economic development issues, which involves the recruitment of a young research for a PhD related to this issue, under my supervision.

SALTGIANT is a rare cross-disciplinary network of natural and social scientists dedicated to understanding the formation of the Mediterranean Salt Giant, one of the largest salt deposits on Earth, and its implications for sub-seafloor microbial life, risk assessment in the oil industry, geo-economics of the Mediterranean region and the history of oceanography.

source: (Credit: Lofi et al. Seismic atlas 2, in prep.)

source: (Credit: Lofi et al. Seismic atlas 2, in prep.)

Continuer la lecture

Compte rendu de Beyond the Networked City: Infrastructure Reconfigurations and Urban Change in the North and South, livré dirigé par Olivier Coutard et Jonathan Rutherford

Ma recension du livre Beyond the Networked City: Infrastructure Reconfigurations and Urban Change in the North and South dirigé par Olivier Coutard et Jonathan Rutherford vient d’être publiée. Référence complète:

Verdeil, Eric. 2017. ‘Oliver Coutard and Jonathan Rutherford (Eds.) 2016: Beyond the Networked City: Infrastructure Reconfigurations and Urban Change in the North and South. London: Routledge’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 41 (6):1031–32.

This collection comprises eleven chapters exploring the post-network city hypothesis. Editors Olivier Coutard and Jonathan Rutherford––both from LATTS, a research unit at Paris-Est University––began developing this idea a decade or so ago. The book represents a collective, sometimes contradictory, effort to explore and discuss the scope of a set of interrelated transformations affecting infrastructure and cities. All the chapters seek to challenge the domination of the network as a material infrastructure, an ideology and the object of political economy. According to the editors, the currently observed changes helping to define the post-networked city comprise ‘a shift from … homogeneity’ to ‘diversity (and targeted selectivity) of infrastructural spaces; reconfigurations and rescalings in the “spaces of solidarity” … (large scale solidarities are recombining with forms of local “autonomy”); socio-spatial solidarity increasingly based on the division of resources …; a shift from collective to more individualised or diversified practices, norms and expectations’ (which leads to ‘customized infrastructure’); ‘the rise of new forms of individual and collective appropriation of infrastructure’; and ‘international and interurban circulation of models supporting these shifts’ (p. 7).

This research endeavor largely unfolds from debates initiated by the book Splintering Urbanism. Many authors who took part in those discussions, including Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin, feature in this book. The book comes back in a way to the interpretation of the causal link between the neoliberalization of infrastructure and urban fragmentation. The literature on global South cities highlights the fact that the modern infrastructural ideal was barely implemented in such cities and points instead to the prevailing infrastructural diversity. Research on urban environmental change and urban political ecology has also emphasized that the production of infrastructure is a strongly politically contested process which may result in unexpected changes in the way infrastructures are conceived and implemented, and in their urban impact. Specifically, environmental concerns for the preservation of resources and a more circular economy have garnered support in many cities. This, in turn, is believed to favor the advent of a post-network city.

A strength of the book is the wide diversity of case studies it uses to discuss this hypothesis. Regarding infrastructure, we find case studies on water supply, sanitation, waste collection and treatment, electricity and heat supply, as well as roads and (more surprisingly) volumetric urbanism (i.e. domes or––to use a phrase of Simon Marvin’s––‘domic ecologies’). Geographically, the case studies located in the global South (Vietnam, India, Brazil and Columbia, plus a broader review of sub-Saharan African cases) balance out those located in Europe (Paris, Berlin, Manchester, Birmingham and Aberdeen) and the US.

The main development emergent from the chapters is a shift from the post-network city hypothesis to what is encapsulated by the book’s title: ‘beyond the networked city’. ‘Shifting forms of infrastructure never consist of big, paradigm-busting transitions from one large technical network to another’ (p. 6), observe the editors. Instead, the authors depict incremental changes, small-scale adjustments and repairs, experiments and sometimes failures. The hypothesis helps us to properly address the diversity and coexistence of infrastructural systems that the chapters identify, illustrating the waning of exclusive belief in the network as the sole way to legitimately access urban services. In this respect, the experience of infrastructural diversity in the global South is very illuminating, at a time when many local authorities are beginning to recognize the contribution of non-networked solutions to resource delivery imagined by urban dwellers themselves. But what Sylvy Jaglin describes as ‘a pragmatic turn’ (that she identifies in African cities) doesn’t mean that the network disappears from the aspirations of urban dwellers and city officials.

This trend towards diversity of infrastructural systems is also evident in cities of the global North, albeit less strikingly so than in the global South. There is, for instance, the recent promotion of heating districts in the UK, or the rediscovery of the value of the non-potable water network in Paris. In the UK, as well as in Berlin, the promotion of shorter circuits connects two arguments: one that envisions energy decentralization as a democratic development empowering local actors; and one that sees these new circuits as more environmentally sound. This argument is to be found in the European case studies alone. These examples also demonstrate how misleading the notion of post-network can be, since all these infrastructural systems still rely on networks: some at a meso-scale (heating districts), others still at city scale (Paris, Berlin). Barles et al. even propose the notion of ‘the hyper-networked city’ to acknowledge this fact. Other chapters also point to the fact that these networks in fact exceed the scale of the city, rendering the study of ‘infrastructural hinterlands’ essential.

On a final note, the editors stress that ‘the socio-political significations of ongoing urban infrastructural transitions [are] fundamentally ambivalent’ (p. 21). In some cases, they seem to reinforce neoliberal trends and social polarization, while in others they are seen as serving progressive agendas. Taking the case of Mumbai, Graham et al. analyze hydropolitics as the expression of a ‘revanchist urbanism’ by urban elites targeting illegal, as well as legal but provisory, connections in slum areas. De-networking the poor is the counterpoint of strategies of infrastructural secession among the middle and upper classes, thanks to rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling. Jaglin interprets the African ‘infrastructural pragmatic turn’ in less dramatic terms. For her, legalizing ‘hybrid delivery configurations [is] a way for African state authorities to negotiate the urban transition: a partial regularisation of the informal sector facilitates the provision of essential services, in exchange for a civil order that also benefits the urban elites and dominant classes’ (pp.193–4), because they are among the customers of the new hybrid infrastructures. Several chapters also highlight (in contrast to the trend towards privatization) the increased role for public authorities in dealing with and planning for more diverse infrastructural systems.

Soundly grounded in theory, this book builds on rigorous and diverse case studies. It innovatively highlights the mutually constituting relations between changing infrastructure and urban environments. Its prudent conclusions open up avenues for future research focusing on the global inflexions of urban paradigms while also willing to grant due consideration to situated and contextualized trends.