Postgraduate Paper Competition
The Energy Geographies Research Group (EnGRG) hosts an annual competition for outstanding papers written by postgraduate students.
Submissions may take multiple forms (e.g. conceptual papers, original empirical research, methods pieces, research/policy briefings, a portfolio of impact evidence), and we welcome submissions in any field of energy geographies.
The 2023 winners have been announced and you can read about their submissions below.
We really enjoyed reading through all the submissions and are very excited about the future of energy geography research!!
Outstanding Conceptual Contribution 2023 Winner
Carlos Tornel (Durham University, UK)
Energy justice in the context of green extractivism: Perpetuating ontological and epistemological violence in the Yucatan Peninsula
As the world gets warmer, the deployment of low-carbon infrastructure is seen as the cornerstone to mitigate the pressures created by fossil capitalism, prompting questions over what constitutes a 'just' energy transition. This has simultaneously broadened the discussion over what are the social justice and colonial legacies embedded in the infrastructural, technological and material composition of energy systems. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with different actors, this article looks at the deployment of low carbon infrastructure in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, as the colonial legacies, politics and power relations embedded in energy systems interact with the construction of the so-called "Maya Train", a regional integration project seeking to interconnect the southeast of Mexico. It asks the question: can we speak of energy justice in a context of total extraction? Drawing on the literature of green extractivism, it argues that as long as energy justice is linked to a Westernized conception of modernity and development it risks reproducing injustices instead of solving them. The article suggests that political ecology must pay closer attention to emancipatory struggles in defence of the territory as they move away from a universal definition of energy justice.
Read the paper here: https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.5485
Institutional profile: https://www.durham.ac.uk/staff/carlos-a-tornel/
Research profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Carlos-Tornel-2
Outstanding Conceptual Contribution 2023 Runner-Up
Costanza Concetti (Durham University, UK)
Power Disruptions: power system reconfigurations re-assembling the state
Rather than unitary actors or fixed realities, states are porous, heterogenous and unstable phenomena in becoming, whose authority and cohesive appearance rely on the laborious coordination of material elements in both their structuring and discursive capacities. Post-structuralist state theories have shown how mundane everyday practices contribute to the production of stateness, while scholars from diverse disciplinary origins have detailed the ways in which infrastructure politics contributes to the formation of state-society boundaries across scales. This chapter focuses on changing infrastructural systems, and particularly on power systems reconfigurations through distributed generation renewable systems (DGRS) to map how these simultaneously stabilise and de-stabilise the assemblage of the state through lines of de/re-territorialisation and de/coding. It puts in conversation scholarships on decentralised energy transitions and their potential for “energy democracy” with emergent engagements with the concept of “proximity” to unearth how DGRS become powerful agents in the reproduction of the state and of desired and desirable energy transitions.
The chapter will appear in the handbook “Infrastructures and Cities” edited by Olivier Coutard (CNRS-LATTS) and Daniel Florentin (Mines Paris Tech), which is to be published by Edward Elgar in 2023.
Institutional profile: Miss Costanza Concetti - Durham University
Outstanding Impact and Engagement Winner 2023
Hannah Motram (University of Sheffield, UK)
Power to the People: Investigating Minigrids for Rural Electrification in Tanzania through Participatory Activities
This portfolio of activities showcases the participatory aspects of my PhD research into minigrids for rural electrification in Tanzania. My thesis explores justice issues in rural electrification minigrids in Tanzania, focusing on participatory and interdisciplinary approaches. It investigates the economic and technical aspects of minigrid implementation, considering the role of the private sector in delivering electricity to unelectrified rural areas. By analysing data from six rural minigrids, with a main case study in the village of Mpale, my research identifies energy justice challenges, such as unequal tariff costs for poorer households and limited consideration of community perspectives. My research highlights the need for increased community participation in policy and project planning to better address justice concerns and enhance the success of minigrid projects.
Read Hannah's Impact Portfolio here: Impact Portfolio
Institutional profile: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/geography/phd/students-list/hannah-mottram [sheffield.ac.uk].
Outstanding Conceptual Contribution 2022 Winner
Jacob McLean (York University, Canada)
"United They Roll? How Canadian Fossil Capital Subsidizes the Far-Right"
Jacob McLean’s book chapter entitled, “United They Roll? How Canadian Fossil Capital Subsidizes the Far Right” is forthcoming in Fanning the Flames: Political Ecologies of the Far Right, edited by Irma Kinga Allen, Kristoffer Ekberg, Ståle Holgersen and Andreas Malm (2023, Manchester University Press). The chapter focuses on the high point of the Yellow Vests Canada (YVC) movement, the United We Roll Convoy, which drew national media attention when YVC activists drove transport trucks from Red Deer, Alberta to protest outside the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, Ontario on February 19th, 2019. The chapter is divided into four main sections. The first section contextualizes Canada, and the province of Alberta in particular, as a place where fossil capital plays a hegemonic role in the political economy. The second section argues United We Roll was a “subsidized public” with two main tributaries: “extractive populist” groups funded by fossil capital, and far-right anti-immigrant groups emboldened by the “Trump effect” (Gunster et al., 2021; Perry et al., 2019). The third section shows how extractive populist groups struggled for and ultimately lost control of the direction of the movement they subsidized. The fourth section proposes a demarcation between big and small fossil capital and reflect on why the former eventually distanced itself from the convoy, while the latter did not. It concludes with brief notes on how the relationship between Canadian fossil capital and the far right has developed in the years since United We Roll.
Outstanding Research Design and Methods 2022 Winner
Lena Killan (University of Leeds)
"Effective mitigation of transport emissions in London neighbourhoods: spatial patterns, social factors, and wellbeing"
Recent years have seen an increased interest in demand-side mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the oftentimes spatial nature of emissions research, links to social factors and infrastructure are often not analysed geographically. To reach substantial and lasting emission reductions without further disadvantaging vulnerable populations, the design of effective mitigation policies on the local level requires considerations of spatial and social inequalities as well as the context of well-being. Consequently, we explore spatial variations in the links between consumption-based transport emissions with infrastructural factors, such as workplace distance and public transport density, and with risk-factors of transport poverty, including income, age, ethnicity, mobility constraints in London. We find that linear models report significant spatial autocorrelation at p ≤ 0.01 in their model residuals, indicating spatial dependency. Using geographically weighted regression models improves model fits by an adjusted R2 value of 9–70% compared to linear models. Here, modelling flight emissions generally sees the lowest improvements, while those models modelling emissions from cars and vans see the highest improvements in model fit. We conclude that using geographically weighted regression to assess the links between social factors and emissions offers insights which global, linear models overlook. Moreover, this type of analysis enables an assessment of where, spatially, different types of policy interventions may be most effective in reducing not only emissions, but transport poverty risks. Patterns of spatial heterogeneity and policy implications of this research are discussed.
Read the paper here: https://doi.org/10.3390/su141911844
Institutional profile: environment.leeds.ac.uk/geography/pgr/2546/lena-kilian
Outstanding Impact and Engagement 2022 Winner
Maiss Razem (Cambridge University, UK
"Selling ‘cool’: The role of marketing in normalizing domestic air-conditioning in Jordan"
Use of air-conditioners (ACs) is predicted to rise globally. However, there remains a gap in understanding the role of media and emotions in normalizing AC. Guided by the social practice theory, this study investigates escalating use of ACs in Jordan, drawing on statistical data, advertisement content analysis, and expert interviews. From the marketing analysis, three periods were identified: seeding the need through prescriptions of ‘distinction’ (1971–1991), glamorizing the need prescribing ‘the good life’ (1992–2015), and need taking root with prescriptions of ‘normality’ (2016-present). Initially, AC was connoted with modernity, aesthetic taste, and luxury, embraced by affluent homeowners who shared similar aspirations with contracted newly trained architects. Prescriptions that followed deployed a wider range of emotions (family, safety, happiness, fear, envy) targeting the middle-class, with twice the ad exposure and 13-fold increase in AC uptake by 2013 compared to 1991. It is during this period that new rules, norms, and meanings around AC arguably took hold, co-evolving with the diffusion of new housing typologies and urban densification in Amman. Post 2016, drastic drop in AC advertising suggests that domestic AC has become collectively internalized in Jordan, supported by prescriptions of ‘normality’, with reduced use of positive emotions in marketing, and the demand driven by supply rather than necessity. The paper contributes to the emerging interest in understanding the role of emotions in reproducing (un)sustainable practices and recommends limiting emotional prescriptions mobilized by media, especially in countries with low AC uptake.
Read the paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2022.102582
Institutional Profile: https://www.arct.cam.ac.uk/research/phd-research/maiss-razem
Highly Commended Papers
Adam Gallaher (University of Connecticut)
‘Legacy and shockwaves: A spatial analysis of strengthening resilience of the power grid in Connecticut’
(Outstanding Research Design and Methods category)
Read the paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2021.112582
Carlos Tornel (Durham University, UK)
"Decolonizing Energy Justice From the Ground Up"
(Outstanding Conceptual Contribution category)
Robert Wade (Queen’s University Belfast, UK)
"Reclaiming the Windy Commons: Landownership, Wind Rights and the Assetization of Renewable Resources"
(Outstanding Conceptual Contribution category)
Read the paper here: https://doi.org/10.3390/en15103744