Energy transitions and vulnerability – interactions with German audiences

Dr Sigrun Kabisch opens the Leipziger Geographisches Kolloquium
Dr Sigrun Kabisch opens the Leipziger Geographisches Kolloquium

Earlier this month I spoke at three different events in Germany, focusing on various aspects of the relationship between energy transitions and vulnerability in European and other developed-world countries.

Most of these presentations were based on the preliminary findings of the EVALUATE project.

  • I first presented a paper in Passau, at the Deutscher Geographentag 2013 – a biannual gathering of geographers in the country, and the largest of its kind. The paper was titled ‘Connecting energy transition and vulnerability: Geographical perpectives’ and developed, in part, the results of previous work with Gavin Bridge, Mike Bradshaw and Nick Eyre (see Bridge et al. 2013). Using a combination of historical evidence and secondary data from contemporary developments, I explored the socio-technical agents and spatial configurations that face an above-average risk of energy deprivation as a result of the current movement towards a low-carbon economy and society.
  • I then travelled to Leipzig, where I spoke at the Leipziger Geographiches Kolloquium, with a paper that examined the institutional and demographic underpinnings of household vulnerability to energy poverty in Europe. In line with work being undertaken within EVALUATE, there was a special emphasis on post-socialist states, and the relationship between energy poverty and broader institutional frameworks. The paper also highlighted the manner in which state organizations have been addressing the poverty detection and amelioration challenges created by the private character of domestic energy deprivation, as well the non-conformity of this condition with conventional policy approaches.
  • From Leipzig it was on to Karlsruhe, for a presentation at a conference on Energy Systems in Transition: Inter- and Trans-disciplinary Contributions. I gave a paper co-written with Sergio Tirado-Herrero and Saska Petrova, and titled ‘Domestic energy vulnerability in Europe: recent spatial and temporal dynamics’. This work offered some of the latest results generated by EVALUATE, where we have uncovered substantial differences in energy prices and in the burden that domestic energy expenditures put on household budgets across the EU. I also spoke about the role that the ongoing internalization of the external costs of domestic energy supply plays in terms of posing a new set of pressures on household energy deprivation.

All in all, it was refreshing to see how much interest issues of energy transition are generating in Germany, particularly among geographers (this was evident in both Passau and Leipzig). The Karlsruhe event also made it evident that spatial concerns are becoming central to many German debates around the energy transition, thus helping challenge and expand some of the basic theoretical foundations of the multi-level perspective that many such discussions are deeply predicated upon.

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