EAN/FAN Workshop 2023: Renewable Energy and Post-Carbon Futures
In June 2023, we held our biennial Energy Anthropology Network Workshop in Lisbon on “Renewable Energy & Post-Carbon Futures”. This time, our workshop was held in collaboration with the EASA Futures Anthropology Network (FAN) together with CRIA (Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia) at the Insituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE)!
We had two fantastic days of presentations, group work, and discussions followed by a fieldtrip to visit contested energy projects of the transition in Portugal’s Alentejo region.
Our hybrid workshop featured five working groups organised around five themes of the energy transition: Transitioning Justly, Contested Carbon, Climate Colonialism, Renewable Infrastructure, Electric Entanglements. You can now read short introductions to our participants’ projects and case-studies on this website! These entries, organised into our panels’ themes, highlight the diverse and important work that our EAN members are doing.
Our workshop culminated with a fieldtrip to Cercal do Alentejo and Sines, where projects for large-scale photovoltaic parks and hydrogen coexist uneasily with the region’s carbon-intensive energy pasts. In Cercal do Alentejo, we met with Sérgio, a member of the civic movement “Juntos pelo Cercal” (Together for Cercal) that opposes a large-scale photovoltaic project on agricultural land. In Sines, an industrial town historically shaped by the presence of Portugal’s largest coal-fired power plant, we met with Egídio, a former worker at the plant and union leader, who talked to us about the controversial closure of the plant and plans to turn Sines into a green energy hotspot through hydrogen and solar parks.
Finally, our workshop coincided with Lisbon’s Feast of St Anthony – a festival that celebrates the city’s patron saint, St Anthony and entails many ‘arraiais’ (street parties) and grilled sardines. It was a perfect way to close our workshop and celebrate new friendships and networks for EAN!
Many thanks to all our participants for taking part; EASA for funding; the Energeo project at ISCTE for fieldtrip funding; our organisers at EAN and FAN; and our wonderful hosts and organisers at ISCTE and CRIA, particularly Antonio Pusceddu and Ruy Blanes! Muito obrigado!
The climate crisis requires a global shift away from dependence on fossil fuel energy. Globally, more than 70% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 2050 to keep global warming well below 2°C. Electricity generation from renewable energy sources will be central to the needed transition, yet expectations of a constant supply of electricity to fuel ever-expanding production, energy security and affordability present challenges to the creation of just and decarbonised futures. While the pace of decarbonisation needs to increase, growth of the sector can, but does not necessarily reconfigure power and hierarchies within and between nations. Renewable energy systems can also pose a threat to societies, nature and planetary health, and have become increasingly scrutinized over issues of mineral extraction, financialisation, infrastructural expansions or waste disposal. While low-carbon energy transitions are presented as crucial to counter fossil fuel dominance, they too can (and have) become entangled into neo-colonial ambitions and growth imperatives. This raises important questions about the potential political landscapes of a post-fossil fuel era. Which futures are made possible by low-carbon energy production, and which are foreclosed? What comprises ‘successful’ energy systems – and for whom? As the world moves towards post-fossil and low-carbon futures, how can anthropology and the social sciences contribute to the making of just and sustainable futures?