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PA - C8 - HFC557 : Sociology of energy transitions: innovation, socio-technical change and controversies in the energy sector

Descriptif

Under the banner of "energy transition", energy-related stakes and issues stand high on the media and public policy agenda. But when it comes to the implementation of this transition, many debates and controversies arise. Energy issues engage a wealth of different actors and sectors, far beyond the technical developments. In the words of a student (March 2019), “people today literally inhabit energy systems”.

Since the spring of 2018, when a first version of this syllabus was written, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased by more than 2 ppm per year. The winter 2018-2019 was a time of debate about fuel taxation, (car) mobility, infrastructures, and climate change mitigation policies in France, triggered by a working-class mobilisation making themselves visible with their yellow safety vests. At the time of writing, in June 2020, a "citizens' climate convention"  submitted its proposals for French policy. The question now is how to implement new public policies developed after this unique deliberation process. The COVID-19 crisis has shaken economies, but also the realm of the possible, and it opens up so many questions that much of the existing literature might seem outdated. 

Yet the rationale behind this course affirms that state-of-the-art research in sociology and political science can provide valuable insights to understand ongoing change processes. We will engage with relationships between science, technology, society and policies in the energy and environment sector. We will support our understanding of their complex interplay with theories accounting for inertia or change, explaining dynamics, resting on case studies in the energy sector, in several countries and time periods.

This course is based on inputs from Science and Technology Studies (STS), a branch of sociology and history devoted to the study of science and technology issues, as well as insights from the sociology of opinion, and public policy analysis focusing on energy issues. This seminar has been enriched with students’ questions about the process of socio-technical change, engaging with policy and society. 

At the end of the seminar, students will: 

 

  • be able to consider past and present “energy transitions” with a sociological point of view;
  • be familiar with some theories accounting for stability and/or change regarding socio-technical developments;
  • be trained to read the most significant elements of a non-fiction text in a (short) given time, and taking part in the conversation about the text by preparing a short comment or question to share about it.

 

The seminar is participatory and interactive, and students are welcome to share their insights and thoughts. Some debates will take place in the class. For the first class, students are requested to bring a newspaper or social media / internet article they find interesting about energy transition and the social. The outline of the course may be adjusted to deal with the students’ main concerns.

Students’ evaluation rests on an oral presentation of the main points of a research article (from session 3 on), individually or in pairs, in a 15 minute frame, as well as a short essay due after the end of the course (3-5 pages). Participation in the seminar accounts for 10% of the grade.

 

Session 1 (Sept. 29) Introduction to the courseEach student is requested to bring a newspaper or social media / internet article that triggered their interest, in relationship with the scope of the course. 

 

The outline of the course may be adjusted to deal with the students’ main concerns.

 

Session 2 (Oct. 6) Transition, really ? 

Laird (2013) Against Transitions? Uncovering Conflicts in Changing Energy Systems, Science as Culture, 22:2, 149-156, doi: 10.1080/09505431.2013.786992

Optional : Aykut, Stefan C., et Aurélien Evrard. « Une transition pour que rien ne change ? Changement institutionnel et dépendance au sentier dans les « transitions énergétiques » en Allemagne et en France ». Revue internationale de politique comparée 24, no 1 (2017): 17. http://www.cairn.info/revue-internationale-de-politique-comparee-2017-1-page-17.htm

 

Session 3 (Oct. 13) The social dimensions of energy transitions – or Energy stakes hidden in non-energy policies

Miller, C. A., Iles, A., & Jones, C. F. (2013). The social dimensions of energy transitions. Science as Culture22(2), 135-148.

Royston, S., Selby, J., & Shove, E. (2018). Invisible energy policies: A new agenda for energy demand reduction. Energy Policy123, 127-135. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421518305810

Session 4 (Oct. 20) The making of a centralised electricity system

Hughes, T. (1979). The Electrification of America: The System Builders. Technology and Culture, 20(1), 124-161. doi:10.2307/3103115 (also available in French)

Session 4 (Nov. 3) Nuclear energy, technopolitics and sociotechnical imaginaries

Hecht, G. (2001). Technology, politics, and national identity in France. In Thad Allen, M., & Hecht, G. (2001). Technologies of power: essays in honor of Thomas Parke Hughes and Agatha Chipley HughesMIT Press. 253-293.

Sato, Kyoko. « Japan’s Nuclear Imaginaries Before and After Fukushima: Visions of Science, Technology, and Society ». In Resilience: A New Paradigm of Nuclear Safety. From Accident Mitigation to Resilient Society Facing Extreme Situations, édité par Joonhong Ahn, Franck Guarnieri, et Kazuo Furuta. SpringerOpen, 2017. http://www.oapen.org/download?type=document&docid=1002185.

Optional reading: Hecht, G. (2009; 1998), The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War IIMIT Press. (chapter 2, “Technopolitical regimes”). This chapter is the chapter 1 in the French version of the book (2004), "Le nucléaire et ses régimes technopolitiques". (books are available at the library)

Session 5 (Nov. 10) How does sociotechnical change take place? Theory #1.

Akrich, M., Callon, M., Latour, B., (English-language article to be precised). « A quoi tient le succès des innovations? 1 : L’art de l’intéressement ». Annales des Mines - Gérer et comprendre, no 11 (juin 1988): 4‑17.

Session 6 (Nov. 17) How does sociotechnical change take place? Theory #2.

Geels, F. W. (2002). Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study. Research policy,31(8-9), 1257-1274.

Case study: Geels, F. W., Kern, F., Fuchs, G., Hinderer, N., Kungl, G., Mylan, J., ... & Wassermann, S. (2016). The enactment of socio-technical transition pathways: a reformulated typology and a comparative multi-level analysis of the German and UK low-carbon electricity transitions (1990–2014). Research Policy,45(4), 896-913.

Session 7 (Nov. 24) Radical innovation, sociotechnical promises and democracy

Bakker, S., Van Lente, H., & Meeus, M. (2011). Arenas of expectations for hydrogen technologies. Technological Forecasting and Social Change,78(1), 152-162.

Joly, P. B. (2010). On the economics of techno-scientific promises. in Akrich, M., Barthe, Y., Muniesa, F., Mustar, P. (eds.) Débordements. Mélanges offerts à Michel Callon, Paris, Presses des Mines, 203-222. https://books.openedition.org/pressesmines/703?lang=en

Session 8 (Dec. 1) Wind energy policies and “green on green” controversies

Karnøe, P., & Garud, R. (2012). Path creation: Co-creation of heterogeneous resources in the emergence of the Danish wind turbine cluster. European Planning Studies,20(5), 733-752.

Wüstenhagen R, Wolsink M, Bürer MJ. (2007) Social acceptance of renewable energy innovation: An introduction to the concept. Energy policy 2007, 35:2683-2691. doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2006.12.001.

Optional Session 9 (Dec. 8) 

Visit of the showroom – EDF Lab, 7 boulevard Gaspard Monge, Palaiseau (1 km from Polytechnique)

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