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Accepted Paper:

A world full of gaps: Phasing-down coal and the hunt for a post-fossil society in Eastern Germany  
Felix Schiedlowski (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

Paper short abstract:

In the Central German Mining District, phasing-down coal shall also transform this region in Eastern Germany from post-industrial and post-socialist to post-carbon. The down-scaling of coal is compensated not only with the up-scaling of new forms of energy but calls for a post-carbon society.

Paper long abstract:

As Germany intends carbon neutrality by 2045, the gradual implementation of the nation’s coal (phase-out will provide mounting challenges for the Central German Mining District. Quitting coal shall bring climate justice but must not endanger energy security, economic stability, and social peace in the remaining German coal districts. Climate justice, energy transition, and the finite nature of fossil resources are the driving forces behind this process labelled as Strukturwandel, structural change, indicating that something more significant than a pure economic transformation is intended. The regionally established interplay of labour, economy, and energy is changing. Pillars of society will be re-negotiated, modified, or improved.

This paper (based on PhD fieldwork, 2019-2021) investigates how different actors in the Central German Mining District try to keep pace with the making of post-carbon futures. Some fear de-industrialisation and loss, while others try to transform this mining district into a model region for sustainable growth. This transformation provokes anticipation, desire, hope, hesitation, scepticism, refusal, and indifference. This energy transition, I argue, is full of gaps: Some people, often closely aligned with coal, cannot keep pace with new definitions of the good life. Sometimes the narratives of a proud industrial past and a sustainable future get stuck in a present that is not yet and no more. Yet sometimes, these gaps appear as a creative space for empowering energy politics. This project aims to translate the multiple emic experiences of gaps into an anthropological way of understanding energy transitions.

Panel P091c
Energy transition(s): the promises of renewables and future of the commons [Energy Anthropology Network] III
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -