Sunset behind wind turbines. Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Fuel Switching on the Isle of Man

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Flexibility: past, present, future

17 March, 2020

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One currently talked about way to pursue decarbonisation without touching demand is through fuel switching. For some, this constitutes a form of flexibility, in that one energy source is substituted for another.

One currently talked about way to pursue decarbonisation without touching demand is through fuel switching. For some, this constitutes a form of flexibility, in that one energy source is substituted for another.  To date, there has been a tendency to focus on the qualities of individual fuels and when and how one can take the place of another. Far less attention has been paid to questions of relationality – to how, for instance, the use of different fuels relates to changes in what energy is for, and to the relation between different, but co-existing, ‘end uses’.  Often fuel switching involves multiple ongoing processes of infrastructural, economic, political, and social reconfiguration.

To investigate the roles of fuel switching and the significance of the wider relations in which these kinds of ‘switches’ are situated, a series of interviews was conducted with energy practitioners and policymakers on the Isle of Man.  This site was chosen because it was possible to clearly identify the ‘edges’ of different types of energy supply and to ‘see’ the significance of the changing prevalence of each of these forms.  Islands are particularly useful for this task because they provide a means of relatively easily observing when and where different forms of energy arrive and leave energy systems, and in what quantities.  From this work, it seems that fuel switching is an ongoing process, animated by shifts in demand, as well as supply. An article discussing the findings of this study is currently in preparation.

Banner photo credit: Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

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