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Renewable energy, sustainability paradox and the post-urban question

Arabindoo, P; (2019) Renewable energy, sustainability paradox and the post-urban question. Urban Studies 10.1177/0042098019885080. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Amidst the hype of a ‘new’ energy regime in India with a singular focus on renewable energy, this paper offers a more scrupulous reading of renewables to set up a critical energy discourse. It offers a three-part analysis where it begins by questioning the entrenched idea of ‘renewables as science’ and its instrumental use of metrics and measurements to convey an unbelievable reach and significance. Highlighting the consistent invocation of a calculative ethos, it shows how an ‘empirics of targets’ relying largely on the lure and lore of a single numeric, installed capacity, is persuasively employed to gloss over the crucial distinction between the potential and reality of renewables. An associated consequence is not only its pegging to the speculative value of market-based energy production but also that it remains rooted in the assumptions of an existing system, that is, the logic of a carbon lifeworld. Renewables, as a result, display the tell-tale sign of a sustainability paradox, raising questions about their ability to master a transition to a post-fossil performativity, exasperated as they are by internal contradictions embedded within their core characteristics – efficiency/sufficiency and, more importantly, tensions between utilities and infrastructure. With loose connections to parallel initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission, the transformative potential of renewables is undercut as it remains embedded within an abstract grid imaginary, challenging any effort to actualise it in and through the urban.

Type: Article
Title: Renewable energy, sustainability paradox and the post-urban question
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0042098019885080
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098019885080
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: environment/sustainability, infrastructure, technology/smart cities, urban question
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10093843
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