Energysheds

The contemporary energy system operates at a global scale in its extraction, distribution, and consumption of fuel, production of energy, and disposal of wastes. In contrast, the impacts of this fundamental modern infrastructure are felt at the local scale: producing energy poverty for some and abundance for others; robbing local regions of energy sovereignty; alienating citizens from energy production; encouraging an ignorance of sources and emissions; and making us all complicit in a global system of extraction that undermines any capacity we might have to act morally or sustainably. To rethink energy for our times, Imre Szeman asks, “Might region allow us to understand anew the connections of space, belonging, and environment needed to take on the political challenges of our era?”

This is the prospect to which the emerging concept of the energyshed points. Recent scholarship positions the idea at the intersection of environmental sustainability and energy democracy. As an organizing concept – both in terms of infrastructure and governance, and as a tool for thinking critically – the energyshed has potential to orient energy transition discussions and projects away from narrowly-conceived goals of power optimization and towards more local and ecologically responsible relationships with energy and the effects of its procurement. The energyshed has the potential to fill a practical political role as well: “its function, and organization will increase local capacity for energy governance, planning, and citizen participation.” As such, the concept of the energyshed opens space in discussion, planning and implementation of energy system transitions for issues and forms of engagement largely absent from contemporary energy transition strategies.

Through a series of preliminary workshops, the energyshed brings together interdisciplinary scholars from engineering, politics, and critical studies, with artists, practitioners, policymakers, and community energy organisations. The project’s objective is to scope out the research questions, participants, tools, methodologies, and data required to, on the one hand, produce a technical model of Glasgow’s energyshed, and on the other to explore its political, cultural, and ecological requirements and consequences. What would an energyshed citizenship look like and feel like? How would our relationship to, and expectations of, energy change? What kind of a moral and ethical framework would the energyshed provide? How would it change concepts of, and relationships between, local, national, and global scales? Would it alter the longstanding distinction between city and country? Would it facilitate a more just and sustainable way of life?

Infrastructure Humanities Group
5 University Gardens
Glasgow G12 8QH