POLLEN 2020 CONFERENCE: Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration

Stef Borchardt, Tumi Malope and Michela Marcatelli are convening two panel sessions on: Towards a political ecology of renewable energy at the Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) virtual conference
22-25 September 2020

Click on the link to see the conference programme: https://event.pollen2020.exordo.com/

Towards a political ecology of renewable energy, I & II


  • Dr. Michela Marcatelli
  • Mr. Boitumelo Malope
  • Ms. Stephanie Borchardt


Calls for a rapid transition to renewable energy as a solution to climate change and ecological crisis are currently rampant and across the board, from the US Senate, where the Green New Deal is being debated, to the streets of many countries around the world, where the social movements Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future have been protesting. Most of the time, however, these calls fail to recognize how renewables are deeply embedded in a system of capital accumulation powered by fossil fuels and how they too contribute to its reproduction. Recent years have also seen a resurgence of interest in engaging with renewable energy from a critical perspective, also within the field of political ecology. This scholarship has focused on the processes of appropriation, dispossession, and displacement ̶ but also resistance ̶ that underpin the ‘green’ energy transition. For instance, McCarthy (2015) argues that such transition constitutes a ‘socio-ecological fix’ to capitalism’s inherent tendency to crisis, whereby new processes of commodification remake socio-natures for the purpose of sustaining further capital accumulation. In this sense, then, renewable energy is better understood through the lens of land and green grabbing. Furthermore, Dunlap (2018b) has coined the phrase ‘fossil fuel+’ to capture the dependency of utility-scale renewable energy on fossil fuels, especially for the production, installation, and maintenance of new, green energy infrastructure.This session aims at taking stock of current research on renewables in the Global North and the Global South with a view to rethink a political ecology of renewable energy.

Stef and Tumi are presenting papers that draw on their doctoral research projects.

Stephanie Borchardt will be presenting on: Shedding some light: Energy poverty in a town surrounded by renewable energy projects

Boitumelo (Tumi) Malope will be presenting on: A ‘Just Transition’ paradox: Transparency, accountability and socio-economic development in a rural Karoo town, South Africa