An Anthropology of Electricity from the Global South

via .Academia Edu by Akhil Gupta

The conventional view of what the energy future should look like, especially in the global south is her challenged and an interesting anthropological alternative propose don finding solutions to the vexing problems facing the world today.

“Of all the forms of energy that fuel our modern world and its  lifeways, electricity is perhaps the most pervasive and also the most interesting. More than other infrastructure, the ubiquity of electricity may indeed have hindered an appreciation of its biopolitical importance. Timothy Mitchell (2011, 12–42) has urged social scientists to pay greater attention to the specific material properties of fossil fuels, properties that shape the manner in which these fuels can be stored, transported, and used.”

He describes how the availability of quality electricy is seen as a critical factor and that exploring ways of providing alternatives both to electric power and how it is used, is critical to the sustainable future we are all seeking .

 

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Figure 1. Stitching under smart power lamp. Photo by Robin Wyatt, used here courtesy of the Rockefeller Foundation

Achilles’ conclusion to his paper lays out why it is worthwhile consider and anthropology of electricity  and what its implications could be for the global soothes wells for the planet.

“What is at stake here are different ideas about the future. That the aspiration of the emerging middle class in the global South is to become more like the rich citizens of the global North is an index of the colonization of their imaginations of the future. The failure of development discourse lies in the fact that it seeks to replicate globally the condition of the global North, even as it is increasingly evident that such a condition is unsustainable and leads to eco-suicide. Gandhi was prescient about the unsustainability of modern developmental models when he reportedly said: “If it took Britain half the resources of the world to be what it is today, how many worlds would India need?” (Tolba 1987, 118) Electric futures have to contend with these aspirations among the emerging classes in the global South and struggle to realize notions of development and progress that are sustainable.”

 

 

New York and California are Building the Grid of the Future

How we integrate the distributed  energy network into the existing power supply system is a key question fro sustainable energy growth and the problem of vested interests delaying this process is a evident in Cape Town, where pilot projects are only now getting underway and the City of Cpae Town as the power supplier is at odds with allowing the resale of power at the same price as it pays, as it is electricity sales that are one of the prime sources of income of the City, these examples from New York and California , show our situation is not unique From RMI Outlet

In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell popularized the process—first described by Everett Rogers—by which innovative ideas, policies, and products start with a small but influential minority of early adopters and then spread rapidly to a much wider segment of the market. The planning and design of the electric grid could be at just such a tipping point, with New York and California leading the chargeon how to integrate significantly higher amounts of distributed energy resources (DERs) onto a grid historically built around centralized assets like large power plants.

While New York and California have different existing levels of DER adoption, electricity policy objectives, history, and market structures, the two initiatives share common drivers. Both states recognize the importance of fundamental changes to the regulated investor-owned utility business model and distribution planning process. Both processes are designed to position the electric system to succeed in an environment of changing technology costs and capabilities, improve system resilience and customer opportunities, and address the electric system’s impact on climate.

NY AND CA’S INITIATIVES AT A GLANCE

In April 2014, the New York Public Service Commission launched the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding. The ambitious initiative is the first in the nation to propose an entity to perform the role of a “distributed system platform (DSP) provider.” The DSP model gives life to a new market for distributed resources to provide energy services, similar to a distribution-level independent system operator (ISO) but focused on DERs rather than central grid assets.

The DSP in NY will interface between the bulk power system, utilities, DER providers, and retail customers. While much is yet to be decided, the REV proceeding envisions DSPs as platforms for innovation and market-based deployment of DERs.

California launched a rulemaking proceeding in July 2014 pursuant to Assembly Bill 327, which requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to develop distribution resources plans (DRPs) to better integrate DERs onto the grid. California is the national leader in installed capacity of solar PV, and therefore faces unique challenges related to an existing, scaled deployment of DERs that has not yet materialized in New York.  Moreover, due to the California statutory requirement to focus on DRPs, the process is focused on technical matters related to DER integration, and does not explicitly explore how utility business models may need to change to better integrate DERs. The California initiative does not create a new distributed resource market like the one envisioned in NY. However, like NY, the California process intends “to mov(e) the IOUs towards a more full integration of DERs into their distribution system planning, operations and investment.”

FOUR BIG QUESTIONS

To understand where each state may be headed, we focus on four key questions:

  • What is the role of markets versus mandates in creating the future system?
  • What does distribution system planning look like in a high-DER future?
  • What is the best market structure and regulatory framework to attract data-driven innovation and new energy services?
  • What are the roles of the customer and the utility in the future system

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Huge renewable, nuclear build ahead for SA, but coal is here to stay

From THEDAILYMAVERICK – details of South Africa’s long awaited and contested Integrated Resource Plan: Some ‘Good News’ and some ‘Bad News’ depending on your stance on nuclear energy and your belief in renewables ability to deliver in the context of Southern Africa’s large volumes of available coal and its need to satisfy many parties development and infrastructure needs. The impact of funding of African infrastructure needs is always questionable and results in many compromises along the way. We are all hoping for greater use of renewables and yet no one wants power outages in their area! Expect some serious debates in this heated territory! Without power to cities no future can be even vaguely talked about – sustainability requires a balance we have yet to achieve – hover over the question how do we reduce our consumption without requiring reduction in population – what politician or ‘humanist’ academic can stomach that bitter pill?

By CHRIS YELLAND.

At long last, the cabinet has approved and published the national Integrated Resource Plan for electricity. Now this has to be passed by Parliament and published in the Government Gazette. Let’s hope there will not be further delays and a measure of certainty will prevail so the electricity sector can get down to work.

Officially abbreviated to IRP 2010, the plan forecasts South Africa’s electricity demand up to 2030, and determines how this demand is to be met. It sets out the generation technologies to be used and the planned mix of primary energy options over this period, such as the mix between hydrocarbon (coal, gas, diesel), renewable (hydro, wind, solar), nuclear, pumped storage and other power generation technologies.

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