Enlightened energy alternatives: persons, power and prospects for low carbon democracy in energy transitions, an example from Nepal
Ben Campbell (Durham University)
Paper short abstract:
Research on retooling energy in society focuses on niche examples of successful low carbon adoption. I explore the niche model in Nepal, review uses of niche in socio-technical change models, and consider prospects for low carbon development to counter the landscape of peripheral poverty in Nepal.
Paper long abstract:
Enlightened climate change policy for development was marked by the UN launching a 'Sustainable Energy for All' programme in 2013. In theory development can proceed by finding alternatives to coal, and diesel electricity generation (wind, hydro, solar), and low carbon infrastructures can be implemented by which the poor of the global south can leapfrog into modern energy systems without too much of the dirty black carbon phase. There is a massive interest in the autonomous resilience of off-grid energy generation, and this draws in theories and evidence for socio-technical transition. The simple hardware and finance model for energy technology transfer to the developing world has proved deficient, and a considerable momentum of research is going into retooling energy in society, with a focus on niche examples of successful low carbon adoption. I use northern Nepal as an example to explore the niche model, review some uses of niche in historical socio-technical change models, and consider the prospects for low carbon development to counter the landscape of peripheral poverty in Nepal. Steps towards enlightened, cleaner, pro-poor biomass usage cannot ignore Nepal's political transitions, and surprising experiences concerning sustainable livelihoods in participatory forest and water conservation. It is notable how the climate change agenda risks providing a new stick for beating the poor over biodiversity protection, jeopardising participatory elements of development dialogue. I present a more ontologically situated perspective of persons, community and peripheral places in an energy problematic of power relations, where anthropological analysis of energy can generate something different.
Force, change and readjustment: weather and energy