European Conference of the

Landscape Research Group

Energy Landscapes

Perception, Planning, Participation

and Power

European Conference of the Landscape Research Group 2015

Energy Landscapes

Perception, Planning, Participation and Power

Keynote speakers

There will be four keynotes which are related to the four P’s ("perception", "planning", "participation" and "power") of the conference theme.

1. Perception
Patrick Devine-Wrightphoto Patrick Devine-Wright
(College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, United Kingdom)

Emplacing technologies in energy landscapes: the role of place and identities in the low carbon transition
(PDF 6,5 MB)

Over the past decade, a significant body of social science literature has emerged investigating issues around the siting of low carbon energy technologies and associated infrastructures, prompted by policy and industry concerns over the impacts of ‘NIMBY’ (Not In My Back Yard) objections. In this presentation, I will focus upon important spatial dimensions of siting conflicts over low carbon technologies, implicating issues of place, scale and identity. First, I will draw attention to several key studies that have explored the role of place attachments and place identities in explaining public responses to developments such as wind farms, wave and tidal devices, electricity power lines and nuclear power plants. Second, I will show the importance of symbolic ‘fit’ between place and technology related meanings, and how these underlie discourses of both support and objection. This will be illustrated be drawing on recent findings that reveal processes of essentialisation at work in how local residents represent the siting of high voltage power lines in the English countryside. Finally, I will point to several knowledge gaps for future research to explore.

About Patrick Devine-Wright:

Patrick Devine-Wright is professor in Human Geography at the University of Exeter. He is an environmental social scientist who draws from disciplines such as Human Geography and Environmental Psychology. Patrick Devine-Wright specialises in researching significant, policy-relevant environmental problems using an interdisciplinary collaborative approach that is theoretically informed and has clear pathways to impact. His work is focused on understanding the symbolic and affective dimensions of people-place relations, particularly concepts of place attachment and place identity. He acted as Principle Investigator for the ‘Beyond Nimbyism‘ interdisciplinary project, researching public engagement with renewable energy technologies, evaluated as ‘outstanding‘ in the end of grant peer review by ESRC and is currently a Co-Investigator on research projects funded by ESPRC (CLUES and Conditioning Demand), the Norwegian Research Council (Sustainable Grid Development) and the European Union (EuTrace: a transdisciplinary assessment of climate engineering).
2. Planning
María José Prados Velasco        photo Maria Josè Prados Velasco
(Faculty of Geography and History, University of Seville, Spain)

Unlocking the potential of spatial planning for the development of renewable energy landscapes
(PDF 4,3 MB)

The economic crisis has affected the commitment to energy transition based on renewable resources by, on one hand, halting the construction of large solar power plants (what some in Spain have called the solar bubble) and on the other hand by drastically reducing the profits to be made in energy production. In view of this situation it is necessary to analyze and discuss the transformation of cultural landscapes into energy landscapes. The siting of these landscapes is not linked to the quality of cultural landscapes, to the energy demands of the local people or indeed spatial planning rules. This presentation intends to rethink the relationship between renewable energy and energy landscapes from the perspective of spatial planning. Spatial plans are here defined as tools that integrate the actors involved in the construction of renewable energy plants. The analysis of some case studies will help to elucidate the complex development of these projects and the need for regulation by means of a set of planning rules. The goal is to design sustainable land use proposals in the field of energy landscapes.

About María José Prados Velasco:

María-José Prados is doctor in geography and full time professor at the University of Seville. She is a human geographer devoted to rural changes and their driving forces with a master background in urban planning and a postgraduate in rural survey and land ecology. This relationship between rural changes monitoring and spatial planning are the two axis of her research interest. Currently she works on territorial consequences of major land use changes and mega-trends on rural areas in a post-crisis scenario. Relating both changes and trends, a central part of her present research is focused on the spread of massive renewable power platforms over agricultural land uses and cultural landscapes out of spatial planning process. She leads the National Research Project Naturbounds (Land on the edges: Environmental Costs and Regional Benefits of Naturbanization Processes in three national parks of Spain and Portugal). She belongs to the Spanish management committee of the COST Action Renewable Energy and Landscape. She is cofounder member of the Spanish Network on Renewable Energy and Landscape and of the European Research Laboratory on Social Sciences at the University of Seville.
3. Participation
Maarten Wolsink   photo: Maarten Wolsink       
(Department of Geography, Planning and International Development, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Participation as co-production (PDF 2,4 MB)

Currently Germany is struggling with finding a path towards a new energy system. Interesting is that, globally, with Denmark it is the only country really trying to create a 'turn' (Wende) in its energy system. Many countries have announced an "energy transition", suggesting a similar 'turn', but ignoring or neglecting the institutional changes needed for such a transition. For example, this term was coined in the Netherlands as "transition management" (Rotmans et al, 2001), but soon this idea was hijacked by policy and adapted to fit existing institutional frames. One of the first things done was the introduction of a 'transition manager'. In the talk I will elaborate on the idea that innovation can be 'managed' this way, particularly in the centralized and hierarchical ways most governments operate in energy policies.

The acceptance within society of all consequences of an energy system based on low-carbon and renewable sources, and the adoption of adoption of such a system is primarily about the acceptance of changes in crucial institutions. It is about escaping from the institutional "carbon-lock-in" (Unruh, 2000). First, I will review the essential elements of a power supply system based on renewables. This concerns integration of supply by all different kinds of renewable sources, but also the adaptation and integration of demand. These elements should be accepted by society – which is socio-political, market, and community acceptance. And by all relevant actors, so all three dimensions go far beyond 'public acceptance'. They concern stakeholder and citizen involvement in decision-making, in establishing new infrastructures – mostly distributed generation – and literally 'co-production' (Ostrom) is absolutely crucial. Hence, the second focus will be on the institutional changes needed for establishing a framework opening the possibilities for co-production and the required involvement. First of all, participation should be considered as involvement beyond any form of "tokenism" (according to Arnstein, 1969). For renewables, this means co-production in energy supply and real power in decision-making about how to establish a good 'fit' between the new socio-technical system and the geographical character of the community. For example, place attachment and place identity – as explained by Devine-Wright in his keynote – is determining certain options for a good 'fit' between the energy system and the community. Landscape is a major issue in siting renewables' infrastructure, and hence, participation in decision-making on landscape and crucial. Similarly, supply patterns of renewables must fit the demand patterns that are determined by the geographical identity of the consumers. Moreover, the energy available for power generation is abundant, but the real scarcity becomes the space needed for the infrastructure. Existing institutional frameworks currently hardly support the establishment of co-production and participation in decision-making.

About Maarten Wolsink:

Maarten Wolsink is Associate Professor at the Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies at the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). He studied physics (BSc), Social Science Methodology, Political Science and Mass Communication (MA). His expertise and teaching concern the methodology of social science research, energy policy, the social acceptance of energy innovations, in particular renewable energy sources; and environmental conflicts within environmental policy and infrastructure decision-making (energy, waste, urban densification and water).

He graduated with a PhD in Social Psychology in 1990 (thesis on the Public and Social Acceptance of Wind Power). In the 1980s he was one of just three scientists worldwide researching this topic. Although he is the only one of this original group still working on this subject, he has now been joined by hundreds of researchers. Motivated by this research, he was one of the first scientists to recognize the invalidity and the counter-productivity of the ‘NIMBY’ frame for social acceptance of renewables as applied by developers and policy actors (Wind Engineering, 1989). Instead, decision-making about environmentally relevant infrastructure concerns conflicts with a strong ‘environmental justice’ dimension, which often remains unrecognized by authorities.
4. Power
Don Mitchell photo Don Mitchell
(Department of Geography, Syracuse University, USA)

Landscape: Power Materialized (PDF 4,8 MB)

This talk will focus on how the geographical landscape is a materialization of – and therefore the basis for the continued exercise of – power.  Drawing on examples of alternative energy landscapes in Gotland Sweden, sprawling suburban landscapes in Northern California, and the struggled-over landscape of the US-Mexico border, I will explore what it means to understand landscape as a materialization of (and basis for) power and the implications of that for the development of more just energy, residential, and labour landscapes, while showing how energy, labour, and home-life are always linked.  Landscapes are powerful, I will argue, precisely because they create the conditions of possibility for (or against) justice, whether justice is understood in a redistributive or substantive sense.

About Don Mitchell:

Don Mitchell is a Distinguished Professor of Geography at Syracuse University. He received his PhD in Geography from Rutgers University and taught at the University of Colorado before moving to Syracuse. He has been a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Oslo and the University of Chile. His research focuses on labour and landscape, urban public space, and the geography of justice.  Most recently he is the author of They Saved the Crops: Labor, Landscape, and the Struggle of Industrial Farming in Bracero-Era California (2012). He is currently at work co-editing a volume called Food Across Borders and as the general editor (along with the late Neil Smith) of Revolting New York: The Historical Geography of Riots, Rebellions and Uprisings.
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