Research topic: The constitution of ‘urban’ electricity demand
Research pathway: Environmental Planning
Host institution: Cardiff University
It is widely acknowledged that achieving net-zero will require large-scale change in how electricity is generated, supplied and consumed. The ‘city’ has been positioned within this context as a central site and scale through which climate change targets can be attained. This framing is based on long-prevalent ideas about the strong symbiotic relationships between the socio-economic ordering of cities and the energy infrastructures that underwrite them. Electricity demand and supply are, based on this framing, urban phenomena that are organised and can be shaped at the scale of cities. My research focuses on the relationships between cities and geographies of electricity consumption and provision. This is achieved by examining the spatial constitution of electricity demand in Central Manchester since 1980. To do this, I study the changing geography of electricity consumption in the city in reference to the dynamics of land use change and patterns of regeneration. I also examine the connections between the city’s land use change and the organisation of the electricity system across different scales. My research reveals that the broader reordering of electricity demand in Central Manchester is not always clearly to do with the city itself or of local ambitions. It also reveals that the management of electricity supply takes shape at multiple scales and according to different organisational challenges and aggregations of demand, which are not always clearly aligned with the boundaries of cities or localised priorities. My research thus problematises the ‘urban’ framing of energy transitions. As an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, I am building on the insights generated through my work, providing a set of consolidated implications for future research and policy aimed at facilitating much discussed and desired city-based programmes of decarbonisation.