Energy Lives! Infrastructural Citizenship in Nordic Energy Transitions (Energy Lives!)

The world is in dire need of societal and technological pathways that go beyond our current dependency on fossil fuels. The Nordic countries are committed to green transitions towards low-carbon societies, largely centered on renewable energy sources and electrification of society. Because energy transitions are complex multilayered historical processes, looking to historical energy transitions for guidance can help the Nordic countries develop new energy systems that are environmentally and socially just.

Energy Lives! scrutinizes the conjoined lives of energy and people in the Nordic countries. We seek to understand how publics and communities emerge around ways of living with and through energy transitions and how such publics shape and constrain energy transitions over long time periods. We apply the concept of infrastructural citizenship to uncover mechanisms of agency, appropriation, and resistance in energy transitions, distributed among people, politics, and infrastructures.

We study energy transitions through a historical analytical framework that allows us to draw out nuances and complexities of citizen involvement in large-scale infrastructural development over 150 years. At the same time, we are concerned with an urgent contemporary situation that makes history a matter of high relevance. Energy is produced, distributed, used, and disposed of in large sociotechnical infrastructures that result from historical processes, from choices made and technologies available in the past. The energy lives that we study are the outcome of layers upon layers of energy transitions.

Examining Nordic energy transitions from the 1850s until the present through oil refineries, district heating, energy buildings, and afterlives, we bring the participatory nature of transitions into light. By centering citizens simultaneously as historical actors whose choices continue to shape the present and as contemporary actors who live within energy infrastructures shaped by the past, the Energy Lives! project will generate new knowledge on how democratic engagement and citizen-involvement in energy transition processes have shaped the legitimacy and efficiency of such processes. Such perspectives are critically needed in contemporary political debates and strategies about environmentally and inter- and intra-generationally just green transitions.