Accepted paper:

Living with solar power: energy transitions in the Global South


Raihana Ferdous (Glasgow University)
Britta Turner (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic researches, this paper investigates what small amounts of solar electricity do in domestic households in the Global South

Paper long abstract:

This paper is concerned with the question of how energy transitions are lived with in the Global South. As global policies designed for mitigating and adapting to climate change converge locally with efforts to bring "Energy for All", therefore the notion of "energy transition" is presented as an unquestionable necessity. As such there has been a tendency to focus on diffusion in assessments of Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) such as Solar Home Systems (SHS) and insufficient effort has been put into understanding how these operate in everyday life in off grid areas in the Global South. Based on ethnographic researches in off grid areas of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the paper investigates how SHS users live with and make use of the intermittent powers of solar electricity in everyday life. It addresses questions of what happens when the quantity or quality of energy flows, and the social arrangements and cultural understandings built around them change and how the situated capacities of solar electricity emerge in everyday practices and narratives. It thus aims to join a conversation which has so far been dominated by science, engineering and economics: the conversation of what makes specific RETs appropriate as capacity to do (specific kinds of) work. The authors suggest that social scientists are particularly well positioned to challenge the diffusion-oriented focus and predominantly quantitative impact evaluation which has been dominant in this field and to attend much more closely to the temporal and spatial variability of energy transitions.

panel P06
Energy citizenships and prospects for low carbon democracy