Author:Annabel Pinker (The James Hutton Institute)
Paper short abstract:
This paper attends to two emergent modalities of energy ‘decentralisation’ in Scotland. It considers the affective, sensory, and material dimensions of these variously scaled renewable energy schemes, the new political spaces they hint at, and the new ways of inhabiting local landscapes that they invite.
Paper long abstract:
Scholars have recently begun exploring the entanglements between political forms and energy infrastructures (e.g. Mitchell 2011; Boyer 2014); some have suggested, in particular, that locally-driven renewable energy systems - which may pose a challenge to conventional arrangements of centralised energy production and use - bring the potential for a vibrant, re-enfranchised, participatory politics (Walker and Cass 2007; Devine-Wright 2007). This paper attends to two distinct modalities of energy 'decentralisation' in Scotland, drawing on fieldwork both on a west-coast peninsula that has conducted a 40-year long experiment with handcrafted off-grid micro-wind turbines and on a 40,000-acre Aberdeenshire estate, where new regulations have ensured that a tiny population is set to receive hundreds of thousands in annual 'community benefit funds' from the anticipated construction of one of the country's largest windfarms. I consider the affective, sensory, and material dimensions of these variously scaled renewable energy schemes, the emergent political spaces they hint at, and the new ways of inhabiting local landscapes that they invite. What embedded histories of land ownership, power, and everyday life bubble up in local responses to these infrastructures? What phantasms of possible futures do they conjure? What distinctive intimacies with wind, sun and water do they cultivate? How do the political and material intransigencies of existing infrastructures come to shape and disrupt the possibilities framed by these energy projects? In addressing these questions, this paper aims to put scholarly work on changing relations between humans, nature and infrastructures in the Anthropocene in dialogue with current debates around emergent political practices.