Emerging countries, cities and energy. Questioning transitions

Abstract : This chapter presents the main conclusions of two comparative research programmes exploring urban energy transformations, specifically energy for buildings and economic activities. Their starting point is rooted in a body of work dedicated to energy transition, a notion extensively employed in academic circles and, since the 1992 Rio Summit, increasingly associated with cities: “Cities, as entities within which an ever-larger share of energy is used, are seen as simultaneously constituting a key target of such an energy transition, as well as a key ‘instrument’ in delivering it” (Rutherford & Coutard 2014, p.2). The emphasis placed on the growing role of cities in the transformation of energy systems historically dominated by national players (Thorp & Marvin 1995; Bulkeley et al. 2010; Hodson & Marvin 2010) raises questions about the specificities of urban transition pathways and their geographical distribution (Bouzarovski, Introduction to this volume). The aim of the programmes was thus to explore the factors of change observable at urban scales and the main actors holding a “vision” or a strategy for energy in order to understand if and how transformations are framed, devised and implemented in relations with urban concerns and to assess the capacity for action of urban authorities. This capacity needs to be gauged in relation, on the one hand, to the traditional energy sector operators, often maintaining close links with central governments, and on the other hand, to the private players which have been strengthened by reforms in the sector (liberalisation, unbundling, privatisation or opening up to private investors). Globally, the question is about the emergence of a territorialisation of energy issues at metropolitan scales and, in this chapter, about the specificities of this process in the context of cities in emerging countries. As pointed in the introduction of the book, such metropolises must be placed in the agenda of future research. That is urban entities where development is taking place in conditions marked by a combination of high economic growth, strong integration into globalised markets and robust institutional know-how (Sgard 2008; Piveteau & Rougier 2010). Urban energy demand here is strong, driven both by high urban growth rates and by rising consumption among the urban middle classes. The chapter offers a synthesis of in-depth empirical analyses exploring these questions in four big cities in emerging countries (Buenos Aires, Delhi, Istanbul, Cape Town) and a number of secondary cities (Sfax in Tunisia, Turkish cities). These cases were chosen for contingent reasons, including the familiarity the researchers involved in the programmes had gained thanks to previous research. But as will be explained further, the research in these cities clearly shows that urban energy issues are subjects to very different framings strongly influenced by local and place-specific concerns. In view of this and considering the uneven capacity and effectiveness of local urban action in determining the scope and nature of the cities’ commitment, the chapter argues against the hypothesis of a convergence of developments towards a model of “energy transition” as set out, for instance, in national sectorial policies (see the main characteristics of the case studies in Table 7.1). The analysis also critically reviews the assumption of a growing role for local authorities in energy governance (see also Rutherford & Jaglin 2015).2 Although cities are not passive in response to the ongoing changes and to the tensions and contestation which materialise in urban spaces in relation with the politicisation of energy issues, the chapter suggests that energy transition is not the primary focus of urban governance in cities of emerging countries, which must address context-specific priorities pertaining to broader perspectives of urban development and social regulation. The first section explains why the focus on urban energy issues challenges the idea of a convergent and stable energy transition and leads us to favour the notion of energy changes, which is less normative and restrictive. In the second section we stress the urbanisation of energy issues, understood as the rescaling of these issues at the urban level, and discuss why it does not result nor contribute to a greater autonomy of urban stakeholders vis-à-vis national authorities and sector firms. The third section is dedicated to the analysis of the very diverse politicisation processes that occur in the surveyed cities with respect to energy policy. We conclude by summarising the main implications of the cases findings for a research on the urban governance of energy transition sensitive to the variety of issues and contexts.
Type de document :
Chapitre d'ouvrage
Stefan Bouzarovski; Martin J Pasqualetti; Vanesa Castán Broto. The Routledge Research Companion to Energy Geographies, Routledge, pp.106-120, 2017, 〈https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Research-Companion-to-Energy-Geographies/Bouzarovski-Pasqualetti-Broto/p/book/9781472464194〉
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Sylvy Jaglin, Éric Verdeil. Emerging countries, cities and energy. Questioning transitions. Stefan Bouzarovski; Martin J Pasqualetti; Vanesa Castán Broto. The Routledge Research Companion to Energy Geographies, Routledge, pp.106-120, 2017, 〈https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Research-Companion-to-Energy-Geographies/Bouzarovski-Pasqualetti-Broto/p/book/9781472464194〉. 〈halshs-01546666〉



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