Short (re-)introduction to my research

I started this blog one year into my PhD. Three years on, I’ve managed to complete my coursework, undertake one internship, publish two journal articles, and give two conference presentations. It goes without saying, perhaps for many and not just me, that 2016 could have been a better year. But, on the bright side, I also managed to defend my proposal and am now looking forward to secure my candidature going into 2017. Following in an excerpt from my dissertation research proposal, followed by a list of current projects.

Local communities are increasingly occupying the front-lines in the ongoing energy systems transformation, to advance an alternate energy future which is not only sustainable but also equitable. In doing so, these communities find themselves fighting an uphill, and oftentimes, unending battle through minimally-resourced grassroots energy transitions, against a hegemonic and dominant conventional energy paradigm. Community energy (CE) represents the advent of the civil society into a highly monopolistic and oligarchic energy industry which has enjoyed state-regulated legitimacy ever since its inception. Now, in response to existential threats like climate change and exponential social and economic polarization in cities, communities of citizens are self-organizing through on-the-ground energy transition projects and virtual advocacy and resource-sharing networks to generate momentum in absence of critical state-support. The importance of civil society in ongoing energy transitions comes about as a result of the inherently decentralized and distributed nature of renewable energy technologies that constitute the future of the energy sector. The informality surrounding energy infrastructure provision based on decentralized energy systems is yet to settle into formal governance models and social organization, in that the roles, responsibilities and positions of consumers as energy producers are still open to negotiation and conflict. A greater understanding of these dynamics which unfold across institutional as well as geographical scales from locality to nation are critical to enabling an energy future for all sections of society, especially those which remain disenfranchised in the current energy system. This research project will investigate the underlying rationalities; how grassroots energy transitions come about, and how they are maintained in a dialectic opposition to the carbon economy, while at the same time being dependent on it. The primary objective of this research is to advance a greater understanding of ongoing grassroots-led efforts, which pull human and material elements into new socio-material networks, in pursuit of affecting broader societal change. As such, the research is designed to expand on the methodological frameworks generally used to study local energy transitions through an exploratory research approach that integrates influences from multiple disciplines including socio-technical studies, geography, urban planning, public policy and literary theory.

Current Projects:

Doctoral Research

  • Mainstream Planning and Insurgent Advocacy: Can the Resilience Discourse Respond to Equity in Shrinking Cities?
  • Exploration of grassroots networks to advance adoption of solar PV systems in Plano, Texas: A Narrative-Networks Analysis [Part of ongoing field exam]

Other projects

  • Experiential Learning in the Planning Classroom [tentative title]

 

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