Sub-theme 6. The drama of the grabbed commons
Renewable Resource Energy Projects and the Drama of the Grabbed Commons
This panel addresses the issue of how the global energy turn towards renewables also comes with the demand to remove large tracks of land and thus cultural landscape ecosystems previously owned and managed as commons property for this purpose. Governments, as well as investors, can argue that green energy projects are sustainable investments in line with, for example, the SDGs, while these hide green energy commons grabbing processes. The presentations provide a global overview of the range of these processes. They also show how governments legitimate, plan, and implement concrete alternative energy projects (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) and the challenges and impacts these have on the local commoners. Furthermore, the presentations present local reactions and responses these projects trigger. Therefore, we are not dealing with ‘tragedies’ but rather ‘dramas of the green grabbed energy commons’ as the outcomes of resource loss and successful local defense against all these projects remain unclear. However, the contributions highlight the processes in which these are entangled and what can be learned from the perspective of the commons.
Panel 6.14. A
1. How GIS analysis could be used to better locate potential green hydrogen project with higher impact for local communities’
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany
In order to achieve a sustainable and renewable energy transition, green hydrogen is projected to play a key role in future energy systems. Produced with renewable electricity, green hydrogen could become an energy carrier of the future and decarbonize heavy industry. To bring this transition into reality, especially in Germany, there is a vision to rely on export to cover the local expected demand. This might be an economic opportunity for the sub-Saharan country because of its high renewable energy potential. However, the burden of changing and adapting current infrastructure to fit distributed energy systems could fall on the local taxpayers. Whereas the opportunity cost could be used to address the availability challenges of reliable and sustainable energy supply, as the region still suffers from low access to electricity and clean fuel for cooking.
Therefore, using geographical information system approach, this paper investigates the best potential location for hydrogen projects with higher local impact. This is achieved by adding environmental and social constraints associated with green hydrogen and renewable energy production and infrastructure locations. Thus, rather than restraining the analysis to a pure techno-economic configuration where a cost optimization approach with lower production cost drives the decision-making. The study shows how environmental and social constraints could be the best fitting, as it restrains project implementation in locations that favor population and job displacement.
2. Visions, hopes, and anxieties toward the TuNur project
ABI Institute Freiburg, Germany
In 2017, Hamza Hamouchene already denounced the construction of the energy infrastructure project TuNur in Tunisia as a case of “energy colonialism”, like Desertec and the Ouarzazate solar plant in Morocco (Schutze, 2021). As Poletti (2022) shows, Morocco is experiencing ‘structural water stress ‘and farmers from the once oasis in the town of Suq el-Khamis contest the construction of the solar plant as it is drying the region up, condemning agriculture and undermining local employment. The fear is that the same fate will happen to Tunisia. Therefore, the hypothesis here is that this project would provoke anxiety in local communities concerning the exploitation of water, as in Morocco. Our
inquiry aims at exploring local people’s perception, level of information, fears and hopes concerning the TuNur solar plant. This work is based on thirty qualitative extensive interviews to political and industrial elite, civil servants, members of civil society, academics and journalists and locals, within one month of fieldwork in Tunisia. Drawing on infrastructure studies and social movement theory, this paper asks whether local communities of the Cap Bon region in Tunisia would look with anxiety the construction of the TuNur project or with hope for the project to provide jobs instead. Will the syndicate UGTT in anti-president key capitalize the discontent? Within the frame of the tension between the president Said and the opposition groups, the Tunisian socio political scenario seems unpredictable today. Yet, energy infrastructure can be a precious tool to address questions of governance, democracy, authoritarianism and social claims.
3. Land use effect on the pastoral livelihood: a case of geothermal development in Samburu and Narok.
University of Nairobi, Kenya
In this paper, we examine how ‘frontier entrepreneurs’ impact the socio-ecological environment of the Maasai and the Samburu pastoral groups, north and south rift, Kenya. Specifically, we examine the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) envisioned Suguta trough along the Maralal volcanic area and the proposed geothermal project in Suswa, Narok, in Kenya. we compare these two projects to the completed five units of the Olkaria geothermal energy in Naivasha that have transformed the socio-ecology of the Maasai pastoral community, creating environmental risks and insecurity such as noise, water, and air pollution in Naivasha, Nakuru county. The threats have affected the wildlife in Hell’s gate national part bordering the Olkaria geothermal units, and it has led to human displacements by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) and the communities along the ‘Suguta trough’ in Suguta Valley and Baragoi conservancy, and Suswa risk the same. Kenya is one of the ten leading countries in geothermal power production, and currently, Kenya produces 12% of geothermal power to the national grid with the potential for more geothermal spaces.
The Olkaria geothermal projects and their expansion already indicate minimal community engagement, and the envisioned Suguta trough and the proposed Suswa project risk the livelihood of the communities along the potential energy area. Thus, leading to the effect of land use, conflicts, organized violence, and environmental insecurities. The evidence in this paper is based on my interviews and focus group discussions from fieldwork projects in Baragoi in Samburu, and Suswa, Narok county, between the year 2020 to 2022.
4. Energy Pasts and Futures: For the Common Good.
Roskilde University & Malmö University, Denmark
I propose a conference contribution with an energy democracy perspective on comparative aspects of community energy development in Denmark. Locally rooted wind energy cooperatives have played an important role in this Nordic country’s clean energy transition but recently 4 out of 5 such projects have shut down. This development is associated with a turn to large investor driven industrial-scale renewable energy projects. The broader participation of cooperatives in other parts of the energy sector has received little attention. A synthesis across different technologies and types of cooperatives shows almost 800 energy cooperatives existing today. Cooperatives account for 26 percent of total turnover in Denmark’s energy sector and are especially important in electrical distribution, district heating, biogas, and onshore wind power. A novelty is the rise of energy mega cooperatives in the field of electrical distribution. These cooperatives have 100,000s of members and diverse activities in renewable energy generation and distribution. An important part of the eco-system for energy cooperatives are municipally owned energy companies. These companies were historically used to generate a revenue for municipal provision of free-of-charge welfare services like health and education. 120 years ago, the idea that urban electricity should be considered a public good, like water supply, was common. If electricity was sold, then that money should be put to work for the benefit of citizens. Despite efforts to privatize the municipal energy sector, urban municipal companies still provide not-for-profit energy services to millions of citizens. How can this legacy provide perspectives on energy futures that envision collective benefit without depleting scarce resources?
5. How solar electrification projects affect long-term sustainability preferences – Experimental evidence from rural Pakistan
Philipps-University Marburg, Germany
Solar electrification is generally regarded as an important puzzle piece in the push towards universal electrification. However, electrification projects in rural areas of low-income countries often distribute solar home systems with questionable component quality, follow-up support to beneficiaries after the initial distribution phase is oftentimes lackluster and local markets are flooded with low-quality replacement products. These problems are likely to reflect negatively on the preferences for solar energy devices among first adopters, thereby hampering the long-term development of self-sustaining rural solar markets and potentially inducing a disconnect with renewable energy systems among the rural population. We ran a discrete choice experiment in rural Sindh, Pakistan to investigate how preferences for different solar home system characteristics, including two distinct sustainability labels, are affected by prior experience with such systems. Employing a between subject design, we additionally introduced experimental variation in the form of awareness video treatments to shed light on how such interventions can affect short-term sustainability preferences. While we do observe positive average preferences for sustainability labels, we are able to show that these are indeed strongly affected by heterogenous personal experiences with solar home systems, where negative experiences lead to a decrease in preferences for quality and sustainability indicators.
Panel 6.14. B
1. “No windfarms without a just transition ”: feelings of injustice evoking negative emotional responses towards wind projects in Irish peatland communities
University College Dublin, Ireland
One area that has received significantly less attention and a research gap exists is how energy projects trigger a range of emotions in people living in proximate communities and how these emotional responses affect the planning, installation, and long-sustainability of renewable energy projects. When local emotions are ignored, it affects the success of new energy projects. In the paper, we further argue why studying emotions is critical to improving new energy projects’ social and ethical acceptability. People often have strong emotional attachments to the place they live, work, play, and raise their families. The sense of community and place attachments are mainly emotional bonds people have with others in their community and physical surroundings. As a result, feelings of perceived injustice (both distributive and procedural) in energy policy decisions that affect people at the meso-level (community, region, space) can trigger emotional responses to new energy projects. A strong sense of community helps spread feelings of injustice in energy decisions that linger within small communities and are like a contagion spreads within the community, bringing members together for collective actions toward new energy projects. In conclusion, we argue that when terms like “just transition” is used as a promise in energy policies implying that a transition to a low carbon future would be just and equal, perceived and actual failure to deliver on the promise can create perceptions of injustice in the community leading to negative emotions towards future energy projects. Consequently, a greater understanding is required to understand emotions and how (in)justice
2. Shifting solidarities and Identities: A study of Degrai Oran in Western India
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University, Delhi, India
Keyword: Orans, Drylands, Just transition, Commons, Conservation.
Following the Indian government’s shift to renewable energy, understanding the energy transitions in the coal landscape has been a focus of recent work in Indian context. There is limited empirical work on impacts of renewable energy in the Indian drylands. The colonial and post-colonial state has understood drylands as ’empty’, ‘wasteland’ or ‘barren’. These discourses situate drylands as the perfect ‘sacrifice zones’ for meeting national net-zero targets at the cost of the resident humans and non-humans.
Orans are common lands dedicated to various deities in the Thar landscape. Local communities in form of temple trusts have managed Orans through religious regulations and they remain some of the last intact landscapes which are community maintained. The focus of the study, Degrai Oran in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan has been a safety net for the local livestock and people in times of shocks like droughts. Grabbing of private and common land led by renewable energy projects has fueled anxieties across the communities which are divided on the lines of caste and class.
With increasing landscape fragmentation through commons grabbing and fencing of private property, orans have emerged as the focal point amidst social divisions. Newer solidarities are coming across the communities and narratives of conservation and nature-worshipping are being used to rally for shared dependencies on the Orans. Derived from patron-client relationships of the past, it remains to be seen if these alliances repeat the oppressive patterns of the past.
3. Two commons, one stone?
Colorado School of Mines, USA
Natural resources are often co-located but do not share natural boundaries. This can lead to political and property right structures that crosscut the different resources at varying spatial scales, often guided by the resource that first developed. This paper explores the interaction of wind, water, and land where the private ownership of land has created commons issues for the wind and water that is shared. Utility scale wind power projects spans multiple plots and requires coordination and permission across many landowners. In this context it is possible for either tragedy of the commons symptoms to emerge (too much investment and use due to downwind externalities) or tragedy of the anti-commons symptoms to emerge (too little investment due to many exclusion rights). Meanwhile, irrigation subjects the underlying shared aquifer to overuse. Across the Great Plains region of the United States, the Ogallala aquifer facing rapid depletion while the irrigation has reduced wind turbine development and power production for nearer to irrigation due to sub-optimal layouts. This paper explores potential win-win policies that would ameliorate the over-use of the aquifer and the under-use of the wind energy. Theoretical models are calibrated with empirical data to generated viable options that seek to govern the land-, water-, and wind-scape in a more cohesive way. The relative costs and benefits of alternative policies are also considered.
4. Polycentric governance providing a way to survive for eternity
International Institute for Self-governance, Australia
A tax incentive is described for investors to gradually endow their equity to local bioregional stakeholders over the life of patent while also introducing polycentric governance to allow firms to become a Common Pool Resource providing benefits for all stakeholders. In this way a well-being life sustaining income can be created for all citizens to remove the need for government welfare, excessive taxes, and size of government. Case studies of polycentric governance are presented. Other contributions are to identify how: (a) To embed Ostrom’s design principles into corporate constitutions to introduce self-management and self-governance without markets or State; (b) Accepted static models of human behaviour need to be replaced with dynamic behaviour that DNA has embedded into all biota to drive adaption for survival; (c) Polycentric governance constructively releases contrary behaviour in individuals to counter group think, provide checks and balances to excessive power, and force organisations to likewise adopt contrary behaviour to discover how to better survive every changing dynamic complex environments. The word “Tensegrity” is introduced to describe how the physical “architecture of life” identified by Ingber also applies to the social behaviour of biota. The term “ecological governance” is introduced to describe organizations whose constitutions replace static, exclusive, unlimited property rights and existence with dynamic, inclusive and time limited rights. The operations of ecological organisations, like biota, becomes dependent upon re-birthing its activities. This allows alien investor-owned firms to become locally owned and controlled by bioregional stakeholders to provide a basis for establishing eternal circular economies.