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Accepted Paper:

“Disposal, repair and recycling in Uganda’s storage economy: advantages and contradictions in the energy transition from the Global South”  
Amarilli Varesio (University of Milan-Bicocca)

Paper Short Abstract:

The study follows lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries' circulation, repair, repurposing and recycling patterns in Uganda to unveil how batteries as discarded resources produce both “a “mundane infrastructure” of energy poverty” (Cholez, 2019), but also a new environmental challenge.

Paper Abstract:

With the ambition to be at the forefront of global climate action, the Ugandan government is promoting investments in e-mobility and lithium-ion battery production to reduce dependence on energy imports. At the same time, in 2025, Uganda will begin extracting oil from Lake Albert to finance the energy transition, as stated by the Minister of Energy.

Beyond ambiguous political statements, the space of "transition" occupied by low-income communities in Uganda sees low-cost, and often second-hand, lead-acid batteries as critical in shaping the post-grid urban areas, where access to privatized electricity infrastructure is often too high for most of the population. But the thriving Ugandan market promoting solar energy and e-mobility poses similar challenges related to the generation of growing amounts of waste, which is a largely ignored environmental problem (Baraille, Jaglin, 2022).

Expanding on the work of Kasper about storage as infrastructure (2023), in the city of Gulu and Kampala, the study explores the repurposing of second hand lead-acid car batteries from used imported vehicles, their repair in local workshops and the management of spent lithium ion batteries from European e-cars for domestic energy storage.

In conclusion, a look to batteries' circulation, repair, repurposing and recycling patterns in Uganda unveils how batteries as discarded resources produce both “a “mundane infrastructure” of energy poverty” (Cholez, 2019), but also a new environmental challenge, and how the old geopolitics of transferring waste in countries lacking recycling facilities for new e-waste unveil the relations of toxic capitalism in which the energy transition is embedded.

Panel P217
Life after oil? Undoing the contradictions of the energy transition [Environmental Anthropology Network (EAN)]
  Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -