Research workshop: Renewable Energy Knowledge Infrastructures

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seminar Room: Old Surgeons' Hall, The University of Edinburgh

High School Yards

2.30- 5.30pm Thursday 14th March

Edinburgh

EH1 1LZ

United Kingdom

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Research workshop: Renewable Energy Knowledge Infrastructures
2.30- 5.30pm Thursday 14th March, Old Surgeons Hall Seminar Room

Shana Hirsch : Conceptualizing Adaptation in Knowledge Infrastructures Using the Case of Renewable Energy Transitions in Scotland

Shana’s NSF study of Knowledge Infrastructures for Sustainable Transitions uses Scotland as a case study for innovation in renewable energy. Exploring how knowledge infrastructures adapt to shifts in sociotechnical imaginaries of nation and nature in times of sociotechnical transition, this research asks three main questions:

1) What are the political and social processes that lead to the construction of knowledge infrastructures and what is the role of sociotechnical imaginaries in facilitating this process?

2) How do infrastructures and imaginaries interact to enable or constrain sustainable transitions?

3) In what ways could adaptive knowledge infrastructures be created to support, anticipate, or facilitate a transition to more sustainable futures and sociotechnical imaginaries?

In order to answer these questions, she is conducting a large-scale ethnographic case study and transition analysis of renewable energy research, innovation, and development in Scotland.

Gunnar Yttri : The growth of small hydropower in Norway 1990 – 2020: From local farmer initiatives to foreign investment funds.

During the 20th century, Norway became Europe's largest hydroelectric power producer. After the turn of the millennium, large developments were suspended for reasons of conservation, while further expansion was achieved by the extensive development of small hydropower. In the 1990s, local initiatives were spurred by liberal Energy Act. Early 2000s, Norwegian governments designed a policy to enable inexperienced small farmers to develop power plants. However, large public-owned Norwegian power companies, some with international strategies, went into small power, and dominated industry by 2015, but soon sold their assets in small power to foreign capital. At the research workshop I would like to present and discuss the dynamics of this development.

Laura Watts: An Ethnography of Infrastructure-at-Sea

‘Get the metal wet’ is the mantra at the European Marine Energy Centre, where they test full-scale wave and tide energy machines in the open sea. Getting the metal wet is the mundane work that happens at the four marine energy test sites in Orkney, off the northeast coast of Scotland. The work takes dry devices, designed on land, and puts them into the saltwater sea to generate electricity on the national grid. But when the metal of the marine energy machine gets wet, what happens to it as an object? How is the infrastructure transformed as it goes from land to sea? Or, in a general sense, what does the sea do to our understanding of infrastructure?

Inspired by Susan Leigh Star’s approach to defining infrastructure as a series of properties, based on her ethnography of the mundane work involved, I would like to extend this to marine energy infrastructure-at-sea based on my own ethnographic fieldwork. But rather than prescriptive, this extension is intended as a characterisation.

Jamie Cross: Data Extractivism in East Africa’s Off Grid Solar Industry

What kinds of data logics are being built into the smart, decentralised, energy systems being installed across East Africa, from solar powered micro-grids to connected solar home systems? Over the past five years a ‘data revolution’ has transformed East Africa’s off grid energy sector, with European and North American financed energy service providers amassing new quantities of household data on energy demand. This presentation introduces some new directions to a critical enquiry into the material politics of off grid energy data, and asks whether the deployment of distributed ledger technologies in the off grid energy sector might disrupt or sustain relationships between energy companies and consumers.


Presenter biographies

Shana Hirsch

Shana works with David Ribes at the University of Washington on an NSF Grant on Knowledge Infrastructures for Sustainable Transitions. The overarching goal of this research is to understand how research communities adapt knowledge infrastructures to meet sustainability transitions driven by emerging sociotechnical imaginaries. Corresponding to the interdisciplinary nature of STS, this study brings conceptual insights from research on knowledge infrastructures and sociotechnical imaginaries together with emerging work on sustainability transitions in science, technology, and innovation studies. Through an empirical study of Scotland as a case study for innovation in renewable energy. this project will develop a framework that describes how knowledge infrastructures adapt to shifts in sociotechnical imaginaries of nation and nature in times of sociotechnical transition.

Gunnar Yttri

Gunnar is associate professor and researcher at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and cooperates with Marianne Ryghaug and Knut Holtan Sørensen at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture.


He has funding from the Norwegian Research Council to explore the relationship between local conditions and the development of renewable energy as part of the RELEASE-project, directed by professor Erling Holden. The book The Imperatives of Sustainable Development: Needs, Justice, Limits is a fruit of this project. He is staying in Edinburgh a part of his research on renewable energy. The goals for the stay are to strengthen the mutual scientific network, make comparisons between different countries and societies, and to publish research in international scientific journals. The University of Edinburgh and Scotland are especially interesting because of the high quality of research on renewable energy, and some important similarities between Scotland and Norway when it comes to the development of natural resources and the importance of rural districts.

Gunnar’s latest research focuses on the development of small-scale hydropower in rural Norway, the most important contribution to new renewable energy in Norway the last 15 years. The first paper on this, “Local hopes, global ambitions”, will be published in a special issue on hydroelectric power of Heimen the Norwegian scientific journal for local and regional history.

Laura Watts

Laura Watts is a writer, poet, and 'ethnographer of futures' who has just joined us as an Interdisciplinary Senior Lecturer in Energy & Society, based in Geography, GeoSciences. She spent the past 6 years as Associate Professor in the Technologies in Practice research group at the IT University of Copenhagen and was previously based at Lancaster University, Centre for Science Studies.

Laura’s research is concerned with the effect of ‘edge’ landscapes on how the future is imagined and made, along with an exploration of different writing methods for future-making. For the past decade she has been working with people and places around energy futures in the Orkney islands. Her latest book , Energy at the End of the World: an Orkney Islands Saga, has just been published by MIT Press. She is also co-author of 'Ebban an’ Flowan’, a poetic primer to marine renewable energy, and she won the International Cultural Innovation Prize 2017, along with Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute, Community Energy Scotland, and Eday Renewable Energy, for a community-built energy storage solution designed from spare parts.

Jamie Cross

Jamie Cross is a Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology and Development. His research and teaching brings social anthropology to bear on problems, projects and technologies of ‘development’. Jamie joined the University of Edinburgh in 2011 with a regional specialisation in South Asia and am co-Director of the University of Edinburgh's Global Development Academy. He has carried out ethnographic fieldwork in India, Papua New Guinea and Scotland with support from the Leverhulme Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Royal Anthropological Institute, among others.

Date and Time

Location

seminar Room: Old Surgeons' Hall, The University of Edinburgh

High School Yards

2.30- 5.30pm Thursday 14th March

Edinburgh

EH1 1LZ

United Kingdom

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