Call for Proposal: Rural Energy Transitions

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Call for Papers: Session “Rural energy transitions. Exploring the rural dimension of socio-technical change” at European Rural Geographies Conference 2017,
Braunschweig (Germany), June 14-17, 2017

Recently, the field of energy geography has “burst” (Huber 2015, p. 1) with an increasing amount of research highlighting the spatial dimension of current transformations within the energy sector. Far beyond geography, transition theory (Geels 2002) has inspired an influential strand of debate about socio-technical change. However, hitherto much of the literature on energy transition has an urban focus and rarely touches upon aspects of rural development in any sustained ways. Similarly, rural studies have had little engagement with energy issues beyond localised studies of responses to energy production developments.

Despite these gaps in the literature, rural areas play a major role within energy transitions. The growth in the use of renewable energy sources has led to an increasing number of energy facilities located in rural spaces, whilst a series of so-called transition. Energy regions or community energy projects are often developed in a rural context (Moss et al. 2015). Furthermore, the realization of the energy transition had often led to the emergence of conflicts which are not only often fought out in the countryside but are also often constructed in association with symbolic and affectual constructions of rurality (Woods 2003; Woods et al. 2012). Finally, alternatives to carbon-dependent patterns of consumption constitute a huge challenge for rural regions (Phillips and Dickie 2015).

In that sense “post-carbon rural studies” could enrich the debate on energy transitions as well as on possible rural worlds. Therefore, this session aims to examine the rural dimension of energy transition. We invite contributions addressing one or more of the following questions:

  • How do rural energy transitions differ from urban transitions? Which new forms of urban-rural linkages arise from energy transitions? Is there a need for “ruralising” energy geography and transition theory?
  • In what ways are different imaginations of rurality shaping rural energy transitions and non-transition? Which energy conflicts are related to these different perspectives on the rural?
  • Who are the winners and losers of rural energy transitions? What are the rural dimensions of fuel poverty and how are they impacted by post-carbon transitions? What social equity issues are posed by new rural energy developments?  Are new processes of rural ‘land grabbing’ emerging in association with energy transitions?
  • What are the interconnections between energy transitions and rural change in general? How are energy transitions reflecting current patterns of uneven development in the countryside?
  • Can rural energy transition contribute to the establishment of ‘smart regions’ or a ‘smart countryside’? What are the interconnections to socio-technical change in other fields of infrastructure supply?
  • What are the politics of energy transition in rural spaces? How do issues of energy democracy and energy justice play out in a rural context? How can rural energy commons be established?
  • What roles does energy play in everyday practices of rural living? How do everyday practices of energy use impact rural energy demands and the possibilities of energy transitions? How different are energy practices in rural spaces, and what challenges to practices of every rural living might emerge through energy transition?

We invite you to submit abstracts for individual papers (maximum 5,000 characters incl. blanks) by October 31, 2016 directly via the homepage of the conference: session is convened by Matthias Naumann (IRS Erkner and Freie Universität Berlin, Germany) and Martin Phillips (University of Leicester, UK).

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