Renewable Energy As Factors of Equality ? Socio-Anthropological Case-Studies of RE Communities in Austria, France and Germany

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 2:00 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
According to many research, energetic crisis and environmental problems will cause new inequalities between countries or communities. However technics like Renewable Energy can also be factors of more equalities (economic, social and environmental). Indeed, a socio-anthropological study of rural towns having achieved full or partial renewable energy self-sufficiency in three western countries (Austria, France and Germany) shows that these RE projects emerge in territories with local difficulties (poverty, unemployment, few economics opportunities or tourism, decrease and/or ageing of population, poor soils, pollutions, etc.). How should we explain this fact? What are the local implications of this energy choice? And how can RE be factors of equality?

RE are indeed opportunities of local development, with a more sustainable energetic system. All territories have sustainable energy resources (sun and/or wind, and/or biomass, etc.). RE are also simple and appropriable technics and its maintenance can be locally managed. Therefore this local energy self-generation has economic but also social and symbolic implications: local employment, tourism, solidarities within or outside the community, redefinition of the role and the place of farmers and inhabitants living inside those villages, local and collective identity, etc. The use of RE inscribes itself in another relationship to the world and all this constitutes a new form of social appropriation of energy (technical, symbolical, economical and political).

Paradoxically, the energy crisis and necessity of a more sustainable way of life in western societies could create new opportunities for communities in difficulty, and contribute to more equality between territories.