Transnational Infrastructures in Turbulent Times? The European Energy Union, Energy Politics, and Integrated Markets

Speaker: Dr Antti Silvast # University of Edinburgh

24th Oct 2016

15:30 - 17:00

Crystal MacMillan Building, Staff Room, 6th Floor

While the localisation of energy systems has grown increasingly topical in policy circles, a number of commentators have pushed energy systems the other way recently: by pursuing common transnational energy infrastructures to increase sustainability, security of supply, and energy affordability. In Europe specifically, the integration of national energy systems has been underway for the several past decades. Some areas like energy market harmonisation have progressed little by little, but others like electrical interconnection between countries suffer from delays and opposition at various scales.  

The establishing of transnational infrastructures is often seen in two main ways by research: either as a matter of exerting political will and frameworks or as a pursuit of necessary technological projects. The presentation examines transnational energy system building from an often overlooked perspective: by looking at experts that bridge between energy politics and technical-economic decisions such as energy market regulation, network operation, and energy trade. My case studies draw from a number of empirical research projects on international energy systems, the power markets in Scandinavia, and the history of internationally-interconnected infrastructures in Finland. 

To examine these themes I revisit known STS debates about Large Technological Systems and Infrastructures and present findings from original fieldwork, including document analysis, interviews with energy industry and policy experts in Europe, and ethnography from special infrastructure control rooms. I outline the ways in which allegedly transnational, leaner, and flexible energy systems are managed by their operators and by proliferating market tools and how these tools also represent energy demand and try to influence everyday behaviours of energy use in new ways. The presentation concludes by suggesting theoretical building blocks for a programme on energy systems and infrastructures in society, which focuses on various scales from transnational infrastructures to their envisioned users within the same perspective. 

Speaker bio: