The presenters of this panel explore how renewable energy infrastructures (including electricity production, distributions and monitoring and forecasting of weather, water and geothermal reservoir, and consumption level) are reconfiguring relations between humans, technologies and nature.
The 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima has altered the ways in which we think about electricity and the environment. Electricity consumption has become political; "renewable energy" is now a buzzword for a sustainable future. Wind and solar farms are popping up with accelerated pace. Geothermal development, which had been overshadowed by nuclear-centered energy policy, is now booming. But there are also many challenges ahead. If nuclear and fossil fuel energy were stable, controlled and centralized, green energy is often dispersed, decentralized and susceptible to the caprice of nature. Further reliance on renewable energy, therefore, would demand alteration in consumption behavior, as well as careful monitoring and forecasting of energy sources and the development of "smart-grid" technologies to accommodate fluctuating power supply.
Renewable energy infrastructure opens our horizon to new dreams and fears. Its success will bring us closer to the future powered by a perpetual motion machine and the locally owned electricity. Its failure entails total black out, depletion of energy sources, and exploitation of local environment. Crisis narratives fuel the current drive for renewable energy as a solution to evade the catastrophic consequences of global warming and nuclear disasters. But the global environmentalism can also mask entrepreneurial ambitions and provide a pretext for environmental destruction in particular localities. The presenters of this panel explore the complex intertwining of the global and the local, technology, nature and human, and dreams and pitfalls of renewable energy development from the perspectives of anthropology and science and technology studies.