17 March 2021 Online event
Presentation & discussion
Mikko Jalas: Okay, thanks a lot, Stan, and once again thanks also for allowing us to come into the reading room with the presentation.
[Introduction Slide with a background picture of a power grid and title “Prime time access for whom? Reshaping the Rhythms of Consumption of Electricity and Road Infrastructures Through dynamic Pricing and Peak-time Charges”
Presented by: Mikko Jalas & Sini Numminen, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. 17.3.2021]
Mikko Jalas: This is a project or a title that has a kind of a quite a long history for me. I have been thinking about kind of the way that infrastructures, particularly electricity grid and the emerging need, an increasing need of demand response, how it’s shaping the everyday freedoms of consumers. And you probably went too far saying that this is kind of an emerging project. This is definitely an emerging theme. We don’t have a funding decision in here, but I think equally important is that both me and Sini have been very interested in the topic and I’m sure that we will find some ways to continue with this. And of course, it’s an excellent opportunity for us to come to the reading room and present to you. And I think also that the today’s program is that the teams will be very close to each other, so I’m looking forward for a good discussion. Now, what you see on the page “Prime time access for whom? Reshaping the rhythms of consumption of electricity and road infrastructures through dynamic pricing and peak time charges”, this long title, this is now something that we have submitted to a special issue in Local Environment, and it’s pending. And the special issue is on fairness aspects of circular economy. So, my presentation will also kind of hinge on kind of broader issues of resource consumption and curtailing kind of excessive resource use as it is implied in the circular economy discussions.
[Slide titled “Starting Points”:
- Sustainability requires a streamlining of resource pools and organizing for shared use
- Sharing economy, access-based economy (Bardhi & Eckhardt 2012)
- Prime time: Dynamic pricing (DP) as revenue maximization for owners of constrained assets
- Demand response as part of infrastructure management
- Intermittent supply & Raising expectations of service quality
- Little discussion on fairness of DP and on the long-term social effects of DP]
Mikko Jalas: Our starting point for the paper is that as I said we look now at flexibility and rhythms change from the point of view of circular economy. So, in a way the broadest framing is that sustainability requires a streamlining of resource pools and organizing for shared use. This in a very broad sense implies that supply and demand need to be matched more carefully than has been done previously where one could say that we have had oversized infrastructures, for example, enable a shared rhythmicity of people starting their workday at the same time or using electricity on a collective rhythmicity. I’m not taking a strong normative point. I, in fact, like that we have a shared rhythmicity in the society. But from a point of view of streamlining resource pools from the stability point of infrastructures and so on so forth and now in the flexibility reading room, of course, demand response is a relevant theme. For these types of streamlining of resource pools, the notion of sharing economy and access-based consumption or access-based economy has been used. And I took it up here because it’s obvious that this relates not only to the infrastructure services but, for example, the hospitality industry is very far in thinking about dynamic pricing.
Access-based services are to do with, for example, car sharing and so on and so forth. Any kind of service provision and access-based economy is bound to run up to the questions of how to regulate access, what is prime time, why are there some kind of geophysical or bodily reasons why we have the peaks, and, if so, what happens when people are not able to consume when the prime time appears? So, prime time particularly I guess it could be seen as a kind of like a business term thinking that there are times of provisioning when the needs or demand is high, and prices are high. Dynamic pricing is not only about flattening the demand curves of infrastructure services but it’s also about revenue maximization for owners of constrained assets. And this is what we have encountered, for example, in the rail network discussions that the operators bluntly say that this it’s not about a flattening demand but it’s for them it’s a game of revenue maximization. And I think it’s important to recognize that this kind of a business logic is different from a kind of would it be the technocratic logic of maintaining infrastructure stability or avoiding congestion.
For demand response particularly in the infrastructure management, we of course recognize a starting point, intermittent supply as kind of driving force and then raising expectations of service quality. So, for example, the interruptions in power supply are more and more kind of heavily regulated and even financially punished. But overall, there’s little discussion of kind of fairness aspects of dynamic pricing and also the long-term social effects of dynamic pricing. And I’m saying this now with the kind of cautiousness that I know that flexibility reading room, for example, has been discussing this, but in overall I think that this kind of academic work on these questions is kind of at the start. So, our starting points were such.
[Slide titled “Social rhythms of infrastructures” containing a long-exposure picture of a highway at night and another picture of a power grid:
- How do the DP schemes, operators and designers consider issues of fairness when offering dynamic tariffs?
- How to share constrained infrastructures in an effective and just manner?
- A thematic lit. review on tariff schemes and demand management trials for household electricity consumption and on a small number of congestion charge schemes.]
Mikko Jalas: And now to the paper. So, what we are now trying to understand in the paper is these two questions: how do dynamic pricing schemes, their operators and designers consider issues of fairness when offering dynamic tariffs; and more normatively how should we share constrained infrastructures in an effective and just manner. So, what is actually the way to fit in the rhythms the social aspects of rhythms the bodily aspects of rhythms and then the technological or the kind of infrastructure aspects of rhythms. And what we have done this far is that we have done a thematic literature review on tariffs schemes and demand management trials for household electricity consumption and a small number of congestion charge schemes. The reason why we ended up taking transport or congestion charges into the study was mainly that we kind of recognized that they are actually quite different in terms of their kind of mechanisms how they get congested, and also it turns out that they are quite different in how pricing is being discussed or not.
[Slide titled “Dynamic pricing of electricity” containing a picture of a power grid:
- Tariff models, not strongly endorsed
- Time-of-Use tariffs: Anticipated rhythmicity
- Real Time Prices: Uncertainty, idealized economic rationality of consumers
- Critical Peak Pricing: Network stability
- Peak time rebates: Tangible savings
- Automated load-shifting (AC, laundry, power-to-heat, emerging EV charging?)]
Mikko Jalas: So dynamic pricing of electricity – what are we finding? Firstly, there are different tariff models within dynamic pricing, and they are not strongly either enforced or endorsed. So somehow it feels like the operators are not really putting a lot of effort in being inventive or trying to push dynamic pricing of electricity forward. We have time-of-use tariffs which kind of say that there’s a very anticipated form of rhythmicity, so day and night tariffs being kind of the most prominent example of those. We have real-time prices so there’s a lot of uncertainty. This is I guess the idealized economic rationality of consumers so that you actually would be alert or your technology or your appliances would be alert on tune with what is happening in the grid elsewhere. We have critical peak pricing which mainly kind of is there to ensure network stability and actually is quite radical in terms of price hikes but also quite limited in terms of, you know, areas of time of application. And then something that is interesting is peak time rebates where people are kind of able to capture tangible savings by shifting their loads. We have kind of key technologies that are being tested in the or what we found in the literature is kind of automated load shifting and relating to air conditioning but also to activities such as laundry, power to heat being quite important in these trials. And also, emerging concern of course for the charging of electric vehicles and particularly for the rapid charging of electric vehicles.
[Slide titled “Congestion charges” containing a long-exposure picture of a highway at night:
- Congestion charges are rare but have been successful
- Publicly debated
- Shifts between modes of transportation
- Reduce peak load, alter routes and to some degree reduce overall demand
- Little evidence of rescheduling
- Impact consumers unevenly]
Mikko Jalas: Now, for congestion charges, what are we finding at the moment? They are rare but it appears that they have been successful. So, it’s kind of like a small mystery that we don’t have more of congestion charges. What is different clearly is that they are publicly debated. So, you might have referendums about whether or not we should kind of engage in one form of dynamic pricing or not; meaning that the use of the road network would be priced differently according to either the real volumes of traffic or to predetermined schedules. The outcomes of these schemes seem to be kind of very significant for shifts between modes of transportation. So, a congestion scheme might be very good at pushing people away from private cars into something some other modes. They do reduce thereby peak loads, but they also alter routes and then they to some degree have been found to reduce overall traffic volumes. But there seems to be quite little evidence of rescheduling. So actually, what is happening is that we don’t get new rhythms, we get new modes of transportation. And finally, there’s the concern that this impact consumes very unevenly. So, somehow the kind of spatial aspects of congestion charges make it quite different from electricity network management.
[Slide titled “Implications for furthering demand response”:
- Differences in public engagement (road vs. the power grid).
- How to make decisions about dynamic pricing schemes of infrastructure services?
- How to model/represent consumption as everyday rhythmicity?
- For both: demand response is modeled very coarsely through ‘value of time’
- How to track the long-term consequences of rhythms dispersion?]
Mikko Jalas: What other kind of implications we think are most relevant for furthering demand response? If we really think that for environmental reasons, for the stability of network, demand response is a good thing, how should you go about it? There are significant differences in public engagement in terms of road versus the power grid. So, like I said, we do have referendums over the road access, but we have very little on the power grid when it comes to dynamic pricing and decisions how they are being made. How to make decisions about infrastructure services obviously relates to the questions of kind of procedural and representational aspects of energy justice as well. There’s an issue of how to best represent consumption as everyday rhythmicity and a fear of misrecognition. So, for both infrastructures demand response is modeled very coarsely through a kind of a value of time figure and I’m just wondering, or we have been wondering that how much detail should there be in the way that planners and operators should accommodate the different needs of individuals. And transportation justice literature I think is interesting like Karel Martens’ saying that actually we do not want a kind of a very detailed analysis of individual needs; that a good infrastructure is something that kind of maintains the freedoms of individuals and you do not want to go full way of representing details of individual consumers. And finally, the question of and relating to the kind of justice aspects of dynamic pricing that if it would be so that there are some off-peak kind of like a shadow written type of phenomena whereby low prices force some people to start to alter their rhythms, how to track the long-term consequences of this kind and whether and how they fit into a justice framework.
[Slide titled “Effects of aggressive dynamic pricing?” and a graphical matrix with four equal quadrants marked by two bi-directional perpendicular arrows. The vertical arrow is captioned as “More financial resources” at the top and “Less financial resources” at the bottom. The horizontal arrow is captioned as “more flexibility” at the right-end and “less flexibility” at the left-end. The top-right quadrant bears the text “Resource man”. The top-left quadrant bears the text “Need and can afford prime time access”. The bottom-right quadrant bears the text “Significant savings from off-peak consumption. ‘Counter/shadow rhythms’”. The bottom-left quadrant bear the text “Financial burden of non-flexibility. ‘Rhythmic dislocations’”. Footnote beneath the matrix :
“The frame adopted from Powells, Gareth, and Michael J. Fell. 2019. ‘Flexibility Capital and Flexibility Justice in Smart Energy Systems’. Energy Research & Social Science 54: 56–59. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2019.03.015.”]
Mikko Jalas: So, this is something that we’ve been wondering, and this is now paying a courtesy to the Gareth Powells and Michael Fell who were presenting their flexibility capital paper. So, and this is not on the manuscript that we have presented but I just thought I’ll try to make sense about the phenomena also through this scheme. So here we have two types of, well, what they call capital, so, kind of financial capital, less or more, and flexibility capital. And let’s say that you are flexible in your life, but you are low on financial resources. So, we think that aggressive dynamic pricing meaning that there are significant changes in, differences in price levels would enable people to also get significant savings from their point of view from off-peak consumption. And this could be something that we call counter or shadow rhythms whereby you really see that people start to live the life of peak in a systematic and connected way. If you are tight on money but you have less flexibility, you have the financial burden of non-flexibility. So, this is already the Powells and Fell argument. But what we are thinking is that you could also call this corner rhythmic dislocation. So, you are forced to do things on times that are not convenient for you. So rhythmic dislocations would be a phenomenon over what we see there. If you are less flexible and have money you will need to and you can afford prime time access, this is kind of the ideal customer for the businesses who want to profit from peak hours and prime time service provisioning. And finally, that we were for a long time thinking that what is in this corner that has financial resources and is flexible and finally this kind of a resource man, Yolanda Strengers’ idea of this kind of a techno-focused resourceful actor in the society was placed in there.
[Slide titled “References”:
Bardhi, Fleura, and Giana M. Eckhardt. 2012. ‘Access-Based Consumption: The Case of Car Shar-ing’. Journal of Consumer Research 39 (4): 881–98. doi: 10.1086/666376.
Bocken, Nancy M. P., Ingrid de Pauw, Conny Bakker, and Bram van der Grinten. 2016. ‘Product Design and Business Model Strategies for a Circular Economy’. Journal of Industrial and Production Engineering 33 (5): 308–20. doi: 10.1080/21681015.2016.1172124.
Powells, Gareth, and Michael J. Fell. 2019. ‘Flexibility Capital and Flexibility Justice in Smart Energy Systems’. Energy Research & Social Science 54: 56–59. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2019.03.015.]
This is ongoing thinking and thank you for your attention and I’m very happy to discuss further and also engage Sini in this discussion.
Stanley Blue: Thank you, Mikko. Jacopo?
Jacopo Torriti: Yeah, I really enjoyed this, and I really like the parallelism with congestion charging and in a sense I’m also curious to know the next steps in the work to understand to which extent this parallelism, you know, will become, you know, a comparison in which some of the drivers of one are compared with the others. I think a reflection on research and not being obsessed with in a sense understanding the consequences of these interventions is well noted; because in a sense I would be really eager to understand the time implications on everyday life of congestion charging and what research can tell us. But I think I kind of note and agree with this difficulty also to detangle the intervention element from, you know, every day like societal change and, you know, everyday life is never the same between present and past.
So that is already a lesson in a sense for researchers interested in these dynamics. Like I understand the last diagram and there’s a certain shift to taking the person or the individual as the unit, and there are reflections here whether to be made around how the externalities associated with peak consumption, how they are distributed and how they are, you know, sort of absorbed by different actors depending on flexibility capacities or so? I’m saying this because in a sense one could imagine a scenario where those with fewer resources and fewer flexibility capital, to go with Mike Fell’s terminology, there would be another intervention like from the state. Or I was in discussion about a year ago with the Labour Energy MP and they were saying well what if demand-side response were all taken on board by the state in a sense and it’s a kind of in a more centrally controlled way. I don’t know technically to be honest.
I think they wanted to interrogate this with me, but I didn’t have answers in this regard. But in a sense, it’s this idea right that otherwise it becomes a massive you introducing or fostering the externality rather than addressing it. So, it’s probably just a reflection really more than a question. I need to think a bit more about the reference you made on good infrastructure as always on. I think that’s always in the background, and I think even how you derived that, you know, those quadrants is a reflection of that. What is normal, is this good infrastructure, always on, there’s no such thing as prime time because everyone should have access kind of thing. I know but I need to reflect a bit more on this to be honest.
Stanley Blue: A hand up, a comment or question from Jenny von Platten.
Jenny von Platten: I would like to thank you for this presentation, I think it’s really interesting work. And I was thinking about this, the last slide you showed, for example, which is a lot about exploring perhaps the implications for individuals and depending on your capabilities and flexibility. But I was also wondering if you had considered perhaps on the greater societal level because I just had a thought that perhaps this increased flexibility and say if we do activities that we usually do in peak hours we perhaps place them earlier or after our working day and perhaps we extend this amount of time that we need to have access to services like food shops or whatever that could be. And perhaps that could be instead like a less effective system. We need a more, a longer interval of opening hours for services where we have a lower load throughout these hours. I was just wondering if that could be anything to reflect on.
Mikko Jalas: Maybe I’ll now respond and that connects also to what Jacopo was saying about the possibility of interventions and what I mean what did you use do we just settle to, you know, build more capacity or what is the way. For some reason I think that the hospitality industry is quite interesting. So, for example, we have an institution of scheduling school holidays so that not everyone goes on holiday at the same time. And this is kind of an accepted practice. It’s about demand response or it’s about demand management very clearly but when we get into kind of the weekly or the daily schedules, things get more difficult. So certainly, there’s kind of an issue of granularity here. What is the kind of the unit of time that demand response, you know, techniques can handle? In here, in Finland, I’ve been saying that why should we have Christmas everyone at the same time, that it’s a very stupid idea that everyone has the Christmas the same time. But of course, there are good reasons for that and somehow there is this kind of a very broad level negotiation that we need to have and recognize that the infrastructures are there to serve the kind of synchronicity of our societies partly. So that’s a kind of like a upper level service that we are getting from them.
Sahrakorpi Tiia: Thanks, I really enjoyed this presentation. I’m actually a historian, so I come from like a really historical angle here and it’s really interesting how one of the comments that you presented was that the individual it doesn’t really matter and that we want to, you know, create profiles. And also, with Jacopo’s comment on like we had to look forward and not at the past. But I was I thought it’s actually quite striking how much the past does influence our industry energy infrastructures and how people use energy. And I was reading a recent paper that was looking at these mass observation responses that were done in the U.K. in the 80s. And they were really talking the researcher was looking at how people responded to the changes in the U.K. energy system at the time and how they responded to like 1970s, to the oil crisis and increasing energy efficiency in their own buildings and at homes. And what kind of became really apparent is that there’s clearly like generational shifts and changes so older generations were really stringent like they were really careful how much they used heating inside their homes unlike younger people who were not as like they didn’t have the same kind of worry about these things.
So I was wondering also how much these types of issues we should be thinking about more like, you know, how generations use energy differently, how they have sort of baggage response of like that we cannot force people to change because they’re used to something from their childhood, for example, and energy for, you know, in general it brings comfort to people that you have a warm home that you wake up to in the morning that it’s not cold, for example. And I do think that there is an importance of looking at the past here as we shift towards the future. So, it’s more of a comment and kind of a general thought that I had but, you know, just wanted to throw that out there.
Mikko Jalas: Well, if I’m gonna just thank Tiia for taking this up, this generation aspect because it highlights also kind of something that I’ve been thinking that we are moving towards a new type of a society where the kind of couplings are more tight and we have kind of more of a kind of a full world. And yet at the same time people are, for example, now in Finland you have the telecom infrastructure on a kind of flat rate capacity, so it doesn’t really matter at all how much you consume because you pay for the same kind of capacity charge. So, it’s not evident that we are moving towards a kind of scheduling of prime time and this tight fitting of demand patterns, but certainly road and electricity are pushing towards that end at the moment.
[Introduction slide titled “Equal access to infrastructure services? The importance of value and time” presented by “Ibo van de Poel”]
Ibo van de Poel: I’m Ibo van de Poel. I’m a professor in ethics and technology at Delft University of Technology. It’s maybe good to say that my background is in philosophy, philosophy of technology, so I will be uploading some of these things from a bit more philosophical point of view. Something starting quite out quite abstractly but I hope to move to more concrete implications of what I’m saying towards the end.
[Slide titled “Overview”:
- How should we fairly distribute access to infrastructure services?
- Considering that:
- Such services may produce different value for different persons
- This value creation is dependent on time]
Ibo van de Poel: The question I want to focus on, and it was already I think in Mikko’s presentation about question how should we fairly distribute access to infrastructure services. And I’m particularly interested in say the fact or the given that what value these services provide to persons so how important they are might well be different for different persons and it might well depend on time.
[Section-introduction slide titled “Distributive justice and infrastructure services”]
So, my first part I will be talking about distributive justice and infrastructure services.
[Slide titled “Access to infrastructure services”:
- Transportation, electricity, internet, cell phone access etc.
- Capacity is (often) limited
- Particularly during peak hours
- Raises a question about distributive justice]
Ibo van de Poel: Now, I’m talking similar to Mikko about services like transportation, electricity, internet, cell phone success, and typically capacity is often limited to particularly doing peak hours, so this raises questions about what philosophers would call distributive justice.
[Slide titled “Distributive justice” bearing the following text:
How should we justly (or fairly) distribute the amount of some good X?
Two further questions:
- What are the principles for a just distribution?
- What is the good X that is to be justly distributed?]
Ibo van de Poel: Now, from a very general point of view, very abstract point of view, distributive justice is the question about how should we justly or fairly distribute the amount of some good, of something. And if we have to single out what we mean with these two traditions there are basically two types of questions. So, one are the questions about what are the principles for just distributions, of what type of distributions are just, how do we decide whether the distribution is just. But the other question and this is sometimes overlooked is the question what is exactly the thing that needs to be distributed. So let me say a few things about both of these.
[Slide titled “Distributive justice principles”:
- Each the same amount
- Each the same minimal amount
- Each to their needs
- NB introduces another good X
- Maximin (Rawls)
- The fair distribution is the one in which the worst off are the best off compared to other distributions]
Ibo van de Poel: There are many principles that you can apply if you talk about unjust distribution, but two principles that are often mentioned are kind of equality principle, so everybody should have the same amount or a variation but maybe also important ways different everyone should have the same minimum amount or everyone to their needs that’s also for something. So, if you’re talking about access to, for example, electricity, you can say everybody should have access to the same amount of electricity or access to the same minimum amount of electricity or you should have access to the needs. And but then the thing that your just distribution is actually need fulfilment then rather than electricity, so you’re already changing actually the goods that should be distributed. But there are other principles as well for just distribution. So, the famous one is from Rawls. Rawls proposes a kind of what he calls a Maximin Principle. Basically, says so the most fair distribution is the one in which the one who are worst off are relatively best of compared to other distributions. And this is to avoid that if you distribute completely equal you might actually have less to distribute so actually it might be better to have a distribution that meets the maximin rule than the equality rule.
[Slide titled “What is the good X to be distributed? (1)” :
- Access to infrastructure services
- Access to infrastructure services during peak hours
- Time-weighted access to infrastructure services
- But X can also be rather different]
Ibo van de Poel: And then there is a question what is the good to be distributed. And then in case of infrastructure service you might say well this is about access to the infrastructure service; you might say it is about access to the infrastructure during peak hours because that of course might be the more salient good here because that is what’s scarce. You might do something with time-rated access to infrastructure service. But I think it is if you look, I mean, so from a practical point of view, this might be something you want to consider, but if you look more from, say, philosophical or ethical point of view, I think some of the other things would be important.
[Slide titled “What is the good X to be distributed? (2)”:
- Ability to fulfill basic needs
- g., Maslow
- Human capabilities
- Sen, Nussbaum
- Value/valuable experiences
- My focus for now]
Ibo van de Poel: So, you would say what we want with distributive justice is, for example, something like an equal ability for people to fulfil their basic needs. So, everybody should equally be able to fulfil basic needs and you might go to Maslow to define basic needs. You might say human capabilities from good life, Sen, Nussbaum has made attempts to talk about such capabilities. So, you might say what we actually should equally distribute is capabilities. Capabilities are just in a sense capacities to leading good life you might say. You might also say well what it is about is the value or the valuable experience that people create with infrastructure services, that’s what really matters. Now that’s the thing I’m here going to focus on. I will in the end come back on whether this is really the good we want to distribute in this case.
[Section-introduction slide titled “Values”]
Ibo van de Poel: So first I’m going to say a few things about how I understand the notion of values and I think this is quite theoretical but that is important because I have a philosophical notion of values which is a bit different from how values are sometimes constituted in parts of the social sciences.
[Slide titled “Values”:
- Are the dimensions by which we evaluative the goodness of things
- e.g. sustainability, well-being, privacy, safety etc.
- Values may be realized in the world
- So conceived, they may be seen as properties
- e.g. ‘this car is safe’]
Ibo van de Poel: The way I understand values, values have two important characteristics. First, I understand values as the dimensions by which we evaluate the goodness of things. So, for example, you might think of sustainability or well-being and these are dimensions by which we evaluate who good something is or privacy, safety. But I also take values to be something that is not just in how we evaluate but also something that is more or less realized in in the world outside. If we say this car is safe or this is sustainable mode of electricity generation, we actually subscribing certain properties to objects in the world that meet certain values.
[Slide titled “Valuable experiences”:
- State-of-affairs may be valuable (or not) independent of whether we experience them as such
Going on holiday may be valuable even if we do not enjoy it
- Our experience of good state-of-affairs will addmore value
Going on holiday may be valuable, but it is even more valuable if we enjoy it
- Valuable experiences require (as condition) valuable state-of-affairs
A holiday is not valuable only because we enjoy it]
- State-of-affairs may be valuable (or not) independent of whether we experience them as such
Ibo van de Poel: So, this is important if I’m talking about valuable experiences. I will take that rather an state of affairs, and state of affairs has to be taken very broadly here, so whether something in the world instead of affairs is valuable or not is independent of whether we experience them as such. So, things might have value even if we do not experience. Something might be unsustainable or sustainable even if we don’t experience or evaluate them as such. Here goes the example, going on holiday may be valuable even if I do not enjoy it. Now I’m not saying that the experience is not relevant because in general it is the case that experience of good state of affairs will add more value. Just a simple example again, if I go on holiday that may be valuable but it’s probably even more valuable if I also enjoy it. The way I understand values, in order for an experience to be valuable it needs to be an experience of a state of affairs that is valuable. So, on my account a holiday is not valuable only because we enjoy it. And this is different than those is sometimes instituted in a more subjective sense.
[Slide titled “Disvalue”:
- We cannot make bad state-of-affairs good by experiencing them positively (or desiring them)
A murder does not become valuable by enjoying it
- On this account: if we perceive a bad state-of-affairs as good it is not a valuable experience
Enjoying a murder does not add good but adds bad]
- We cannot make bad state-of-affairs good by experiencing them positively (or desiring them)
Ibo van de Poel: And there’s an important implication if we talk about disvalue, and disvalue is just negative value or the absence of value. So, the way in my view which is actually shared by many philosophers who have written about value, we cannot make bad state of affairs good by experiencing them positively. So, if I murder somebody and I enjoy it, the murder doesn’t become good because I enjoy it or because I desired it. The murder is just bad, and actually if I enjoy it, it adds bad instead of adding good.
[Slide titled “Infrastructure services”:
- Can help to create additional valuable state-of-affairs
- As well as contribute to valuable experiences of them
- NB Good to be distributed is: value (as property) and valuable experience is part of that]
Ibo van de Poel: So, what does it mean for how we need to think about infrastructure services and values and valuable experiences? I think infrastructure services very clearly can help to create a valuable state of affairs and contribute to valuable experiences of these states of affairs. And if we conceive of what in this way so there could be distribution justice is value or valuable experience. And of course, it might be different for different services and for different people.
[Section-introducing slide titled “Value and time”]
Ibo van de Poel: But they also depend on time and that’s the aspect I’m going to focus on here because that allows to make the connection to the team of rhythm and rhythmicity.
[Slide titled “Value experiences and time”:
- Values change over time
Not only our evaluations change over time but also what is valuable changes over time
- The (added) value of state-of-affairs and our experience of them depends on time in several respects
- Values change over time
Ibo van de Poel: I think there are two basic ways in which value and value experience is related to time. So, one thing is that values changes over time and with that I mean, in line with what I said before, not only that our evaluations change over time but also what is valuable might change over time. But there’s also another way in which value is time dependent and that is that the added value of a state of affair or space of them depends on time in respect, like how long it takes, can depend on timing and it can depend on rhythm. So let me go through these one by one.
[Slide titled “Duration”:
- In general: the longer the duration of the value (experience), the more value
- Added value may well diminish over time
- Some (all?) values (experiences) are part of an organic whole and here the crucial thing is more an appropriate duration
e.g. football matches, parties, etc.]
Ibo van de Poel: So, if you talk about duration, you might think that in general the longer the duration of a value or valuable experience, the more value is created. I think that is only to some extent too. So first of all, there might be a diminishing added value [not clear] so to say over time, but more importantly I think if you certainly think of value as valuable experiences of doing valuable things, then often these are things that have a natural duration. So, if you go to a party this isn’t the case that the longer the party more valuable with this, football match, so many of the activities we undertake have a kind of typical duration. So, I think duration is not so much as long as possible as you might think but might be more is appropriate given the type of activity.
[Slide titled “Timing”:
- Sometimes value (experience) depends on (exact) timing
e.g., birthday card
- Visit or call to a person that needs helps
- Seems to have implications for fair distribution of access to infrastructure services]
- Sometimes value (experience) depends on (exact) timing
Ibo van de Poel: Then I think timing is relevant in a quite straightforward sense. I think from birthday card I mean if it comes too late, it might add not much value or negative value. Visit or call to a person that needs help, so if timing can be crucial, I think if you have the aim to distribute valuable experiences in a fair or equal way to people, it matters for access to distributive services.
[Slide titled “Rhythm”:
Why rhythm matters for value and valuable experiences:
- Biological factors
- Coordination (individual as well as collective)]
Ibo van de Poel: And then maybe the one that I think most interesting is rhythm. And I think rhythm is important for value in two ways; one has to do more with what I call biological factors and other has to do with more with social factors which are here called coordination.
[Slide titled “Biological factors”:
Value and valuable experiences depend on:
- Day/night rhythm
- The seasons
- Life phases]
Ibo van de Poel: Biological factors I think are quite straightforward; there’s the day night rhythm, I mean activities that might be valuable right now it might not be valuable during the day and the other way around, value might depend on the seasons, on life phases, so what is valuable at a certain age might not be valuable at another age. So, I think these factors are largely biological determined, maybe not fully but to a very large extent these are biological factors.
[Slide titled “Coordination: collective”:
- Some valuable experiences require other people
e.g. having dinner together
- Some valuable experiences require the absence of other people
e.g. a lonely walk in the woods]
- Some valuable experiences require other people
Ibo van de Poel: May be at least as important in today’s society of course is that values and valuable experiences depend on collective coordination. So, for example, having dinner together, doing things with other people, celebrating something maybe even at a national level, so some valuable experiences by the nature require other people and hence require the presence of other people and just require coordination and perhaps also a certain rhythm in order to achieve them. Interestingly, I think this might also be true of valuable experiences that requires, say, the absence of other people. So, I’m here thinking of a valuable experience like a lonely walk in the woods. Well, if everybody is making that at the same time, you hardly have any lonely walk in the woods anymore. So, this also requires coordination but actually more dis-synchronicity than synchronicity.
[Slide titled “Coordination: collective”:
- Individuals often aim at different values (valuable experiences) that cannot be realized at the same time (value conflict)
- One way to deal with such (potential) value conflict is to balance values over time
- Rhythm may be an important way to achieve this without requiring continuous effort/attention]
Ibo van de Poel: I think there’s also a very interesting sense in which of the individual level values and value experiences require coordination and maybe a kind of rhythm. So, individuals often have different values and different things that they experience as valuable and they cannot do, as we all know we cannot do all valuable things at the same time. And the way we deal with that in our lives is not just making choices what we found most important but also by balancing this over time. So, there isn’t time for certain valuable experiences and isn’t time for other valuable experiences. So, and I think here rhythm is also interesting because rhythm might be a way that we coordinate in our individual life in a way that is relatively effortless. So, this has been quite maybe philosophical general.
[Section-introducing slide titled “(Practical) implications”
Ibo van de Poel: So, what would this imply for the question I started with, thinking about distributive justice in case of infrastructure services during peak hours.
[Slide titled “Distributive justice and access to infrastructure services”:
- Minimally guarantee some fair distribution in terms of basic needs and human capabilities
- Should we also aim at a fair distribution of opportunity to create value/value experience on basis of access to infrastructure services?]
Ibo van de Poel: I think if you think about distributive justice and access to infrastructure services, I think we should minimally guarantee something like a fair distribution in terms of, and I didn’t go deeply into that, in terms of basic needs and human capabilities. Certainly, at the level of groups, so any fair distribution should minimally in my view pay attention to these issues. I think there’s a further question whether the things I discussed like in terms of creating value or value experience, whether we also should create unfair distribution there. To be honest, I’m not sure.
[Slide titled “A possible objection”:
- This is so complex and depends on so many factors that it is practically impossible
- Any (government?) scheme that aims to equally distribute opportunity for value/value experiences is bound to be:
And hence morally undesirable
- Even if this objection holds, the analysis has some relevant practical implications]
Ibo van de Poel: I think there can be an important argument not to do it and I think it was also a bit hinted by Mikko or in reference, that if you want to do this, it becomes so complicated, depends on so many factors that it is either practically impossible or it becomes quite arbitrary and paternalistic. So, you might say well even if in theory it would be desirable to equally or fairly distribute value creation it is maybe in the world we live in simply not possible and therefore not desirable, or it leads to all kinds of undesirable consequences.
[Slide titled “The importance of time”:
- Time is relevant for value in terms of:
- Changing values over time
- Particularly the latter two seem to be neglected currently]
- Time is relevant for value in terms of:
Ibo van de Poel: But I think what is maybe also interesting if you take the importance of time for value creation seriously, I think if you look also more practically at how these peak hour schemes are discussed or pricing schemes, I think there is attention for duration, for how long you have access to the service, there is attention for the timing, during peak hours it might be, there is far less attention to issues of rhythm, of course its rhythm in the amount but there is far less issue to how rhythm helps create value or not create value. There’s also no attention to how values might change over time and we might start to value new things.
[Slide titled “Rhythm”:
- Rhythm seems an important cause of peak demand
- We may change rhythm without losing value in as far as rhythm is based on non-biological factors (i.e., coordination)
- Properly doing this may increase value from infrastructure services without (necessarily) negative justice implications]
Ibo van de Poel: And I think here is actually a lot of opportunity to create maybe societies and have societal change that allows for creating as much value as we do now but in a way that has less peak demands. I think from what I thought it says we can change rhythm without losing value in as far as rhythm is not based on biological factors, for example, coordination factors. And this might be complicated, but this might not be impossible. So, I think there is some real opportunity there.
[Slide titled “Changing value (over time)”:
We may create new types of value and value experience that require less demand of infrastructure services
Or at least less a peak hours]
Ibo van de Poel: I think there’s also some other thing I didn’t really talk about but I’m looking at this in my other research and that’s about changing value over time. I think part of coming these conundrums is also about creating new types of value and new value experiences that require a less amount of infrastructure services. So, I think that is also a very real opportunity.
Stanley Blue: Jacopo, you have your hand up, would you like to come in?
Jacopo Torriti: Yeah, I’ll try for a very direct, I really enjoyed the presentation and I’m also thinking of value and time around these days, and I found some really very interesting material especially in the philosophical take of value and the classifications you provide. I noticed a bit of almost like a hierarchy between biological and coordination and I would dispute that. I mean I think we have recent examples with the pandemic where the value of getting together at Christmas has almost been put forward by some, certainly by the UK government for instance, as being of higher importance and I mean, I don’t want to sound tragic but like life itself right, and the biological reasons of, you know, let’s have a lifespan duration. So, and I think we are in the flexibility theme in with our work in CREDS, we are hitting quite a lot of these, you know, that hierarchy like this may not hold in a sense and even in our smaller world of energy demand and so on. So, I wanted to sort of challenge that a bit.
Ibo van de Poel: So, I didn’t mean as an hierarchy or of the amount of, so I’m not, my claim of not at all that biological rhythms are more important for value creation than say social or coordination rhythms. Actually, the coordination vision might be more important. I was more thinking in the difference in terms of to what extent they open to change. And there are limits also to, so, if you take the example of Christmas which was earlier a given, we can of course not, that’s not open to change and we cannot organize Christmas at different dates for different people. I think that wouldn’t do justice. But there are other things. So, for example, take the value of having dinner together. I’m not at all sure that it is needed that everybody in the whole country has dinner at the same time in order to reach the additional value of having dinner together. Now, I think this is a kind of openness to or malleability that there are more, and of course biological factors are also limits but are also possibilities for change. To be honest, I think changing day night rhythm wouldn’t be very wise. So, but I certainly didn’t mean to say because it might actually be that the coordination is much more important for value, so I didn’t want to say anything about that. The only reason I made the distinction is almost from the kind of system design point of view that the one factor, they’re open and of course you have to be very careful, but they are open for some change in design at the system level so to say. Well, I would say biological factors are not open to that, unless you want to do things with genetic engineering but at least not the way I would go.
Mikko Jalas: Thanks, Ibo, for the presentation. Obviously, it kind of resonates a lot what I’ve been thinking. And I just wanted to connect to this issue of kind of freedoms and individual preferences versus kind of collective aspects of that being something being valued or biological aspects of something being of value. How do you think this kind of a claim that infrastructure should not be planned in reference to individual preferences, that they should only be kind of taking into account structural aspects of our lives? And, for example, Karel Martens says that timing is relevant if it, for example, or dynamic pricing might be relevant, congestion charges might be relevant, bus schedules might be relevant, if they put people to use the transport service when they feel that it’s unsafe or when there’s a real risk of unsafety. Are you agreeing with this that there’s this kind of a realm of private preferences that we should not be trying to reach?
Ibo van de Poel: I basically agree. I think that two points at issue here. So, one, if you, for example, take capabilities. Equally distributed capabilities just means that everybody has equal opportunities to realize a good life. It doesn’t say anything about people’s what preferences people should have or have or don’t have. So, I think there’s an important differences between, so I on purpose didn’t mention equally distributing two preferences for a range of reasons. So first of all, I’m not convinced that preferences are that normatively relevant. And one reason is that some people’s preferences are endless, and you get all kinds of strange things. So, if some people’s preferences are endless, are they more important?
So, I think preference is really not so normatively important, but it’s much more something like capabilities or needs or maybe value. I certainly wouldn’t not make it preferences what we look at. I think then part of the problem is already solved about individual differences because capabilities very much are aimed at allowing everybody to live a good life, but don’t want to say anything about how people should perceive a good life. This is just the idea that there are a number of more or less objective or less inter-subjective conditions that everybody needs to lead a good life. So, I think capabilities in that sense is a much better currency. So, I think in large part can be solved by that. I say I’m also sympathetic that we shouldn’t become too fine-grained because that in itself creates injustices because then we’re going to do things that in the end are rather arbitrary.
Nynke van Uffelen: Alright brilliant. Ibo, thank you very much for your presentation. I have a small question about your definition of distributive justice. Do you define distributive justice as a justice distribution of values or are you defining it more broadly and you’re just focusing on values right now in your presentation?
Ibo van de Poel: Yeah, my idea is that distributive justice is on a very general level distribution of some good, it can be capabilities, can be values, it could even be preferences, it could be resources. I think only some goods are really relevant for distributive justice, but as a formal definition distributive justice is just about the just distribution of some good and then what the good is, that is part of the discussion.
Stanley Blue: Oh, I was going to raise a question. It builds on a little bit some of the things raised in the previous presentation and a little bit on some of the comments about the biological. So, there’s a relationship here between values, coordination, biology, rhythm and capital also. One of the things I suppose is that, in that framework that Mikko and Sini posted and that Mike Fell’s and colleagues that organization, flexibility capital is something that exists on its own, whereas of course it’s tied up with many other kinds of capitals as well. And I was thinking a bit the same with your example of, well, which kinds of coordination get valued and why. So, Christmas you said may be difficult to move but maybe dinner with your family, we could move that one or something like this. And I was thinking about what about and then biological rhythms perhaps you don’t want to intervene with those, and I was thinking about some of the problems are that these some intersect about public transport and not night-time workers, for example, or something like this. So, in that case, you know, where to position the organizing capacities of value?
Ibo van de Poel: Yeah, I completely agree, and this is of course much more complicated than anything I was nearly able to do justice to. I think this partly requires much more also empirical insight in how these rhythms overlap and depend on each other and how we have organized them and how we can perhaps organize them in other ways or not organize them in other ways. Yes, I think in a sense my distinction between biological and coordination is rather abstract and simplistic. I think on a theoretical level it makes sense but in practice these things are intertwined of course. I think the other thing indeed about the flexibility capital is in fact very important because already in how we now organize society you see that some people bear much more of the burden of this organizing other rhythms than others. I think there is already a lot of existing injustice there to be honest.
Stanley Blue: Right, we’re not starting from a clean slate sort of thing.
Ibo van de Poel: Yeah, so part of it I think, and I think Udo will also talk about energy justice and things like recognition justice. I think partly it is also about that about recognizing existing injustices and how we at least can make sure that we’re not increasing existing injustices by things we do in here with, for example, pricing schemes. Again, the issue is here more complicated I think than just distributive justice in a sense.
Stanley Blue: Jenny, you’d like to come in now?
Jenny von Platten: Yes, thanks, I’ll just have a quick question. Well, thank you first of all for your presentation. I really enjoyed it. And could you develop a little bit of what you said when modes of distribution became like paternalistic, just to because I’m not sure if I totally understand.
Ibo van de Poel: Yeah well, the reason for that is that at least on the way I was talking about values, whether something is valuable or not is partly not just determined by what people desire by whether something is valuable. Deciding on that for others can quickly become arbitrary or paternalistic. So that’s what I meant. I’m not saying that it’s necessary that any distributive scheme is necessarily paternalistic, but if you want to do it with respect to value and you understand valuable use more than preferences or desires, there is a danger of it becoming paternalistic because you’re in a sense deciding what is valuable for other people. And I think that is in danger of being paternalistic.
Jenny von Platten: So, just to clarify, I guess that would be different than from perhaps trying to distribute something according to needs, for example?
Ibo van de Poel: Yeah, there can also be some paternalism but far less I guess because I think needs in a sense are at least more objective than just what gives value. So, I think the danger of paternalism there is less I would say.
Mikko Jalas: I’m so excited about this idea of rhythms dislocations or temporal dislocations or something, if I understand the English word dislocation properly that when you get your shoulder dislocated that really hurts and affects your functionality.
Elizabeth Shove: So, I was thinking this biology is really complicated because biology isn’t just biology. Biology as Stan and I have just been writing about is social, so there’s a whole kind of interface there. I mean people used to sleep, you know, to wake up for different periods in the night, there’s nothing natural about biology in that sense. So, you can’t kind of quite, well, splitting it is complicated, isn’t it?
Ibo van de Poel: Otherwise there seems to be limits to what you can do biologically. I think one thing is a day night thing. But another thing this is not just biological, but I think it’s an important thing also, life phases is really important for what creates value for us. And that of course again is not strictly biological I mean.
Mikko Jalas: And you had also, Ibo, seasons in your kind of yeah aspects of biology, so I guess we tend to think more the kind of yeah and day and night yeah easily but there are so many other rhythms of, you know, how many nights you can stay awake in a row or whatever. And Mika Panza, our colleague here in Finland, has been kind of keen on insisting that the body has very significant temporalities of its own. But certainly, those kind of body abilities are built into the society as well and, you know, all kinds of, you know, let’s say shift how long of a shift different activities have and all of that so.
Ibo van de Poel: I think there’s one issue whether [not clear] can deal with it, but it’s also to my mind the kind of justice issue there. To be honest I think the way the burdens, for example, of day night rhythms are distributed in society are not entirely just is my feeling. That’s maybe independent from whether it is biological or not. I mean this is maybe the dislocation that some people have to suffer much more burden from difficult rhythms than others.
Stanley Blue: Yeah, so if it’s the difficulty of going against your biological, diurnal yeah and of course it’s, you know, night-time economy is really problematic. But if it’s not being in sync with, you know, other social activities, then perhaps it’s less so I don’t know and I don’t know how you make that judgment exactly either.
Elizabeth Shove: If you went nightclubbing which I never have done, then you actually need to be up all night. I mean that you can’t participate in nightclubbing all night unless you’re up all night. So, you’re if you like me who would rather go to bed. I’m just excluded from that activity.
Mikko Jalas: I would say, Ibo, thinking when you were presenting and this kind of my question is that what about the kind of long-term adjustments, so and I trust this question, so I can learn to, you know, live with poor infrastructure service, I can maybe leave to or learn or train myself to stay longer awake or things like this, and suddenly if I and my social, you know, connections start to live the same new rhythm then it’s not a problem anymore. The whole kind of this type of a justice theory somehow builds on very static societies.
Ibo van de Poel: Yeah, well, this is also what I tried very big to hint at to think about changing, well, so I think we can adjust to new rhythms. But I think we can also adjust to new valuable things. And I think this is also I mean this is not just a matter of distributing, for example, access to energy it is maybe also using less energy while creating as much value as we do now. I mean I think that is also very well possible. Just at a very effort level you might say you have activities that create in a very energy intensive way value and activities that create less energy intensive way value. If the thing you care about is value, then we might also look whether we can create value in less energy intensive ways. I think and this is of course very abstract but next we can think about what it can concretely, and I think this is very well possible and to be honest I think in the whole [not clear] this is also needed.
Jacopo Torriti: I just said this is a very reason why there’s such a need to conceptualize value and just in the energy domain I mean I’m just coming from, you know, and then because it’s too understood as, you know, a meeting of demand and supply and it changes across time and then but, you know, the whole, you know, especially the material present in the first three slides around, you know, different takes on value and how different concepts can contribute to that discussion to that conceptualization of value is critical. It’s something we really need badly, I think.
[Introduction slide titled “Energy justice and controversies: Formal and informal assessment in energy projects: Space, time and contestations over demand response and infrastructure access” presented by Udo Pesch]
Udo Pesch: Okay, thanks for having me and I will talk on top of energy justice and controversies.
[Slide showing a screenshot of a journal article published in Energy Policy in October 2017 titled “Energy justice and controversies: Formal and informal assessment in energy projects” by Udo Pesch, Aad Correljé, Eefje Cuppen, Behnam Taebi:
Udo Pesch: And it’s basically on this paper that we wrote together with Behnam who was also here and Aad and Eefje who are not here which was published a couple of years ago already. The link was also in the invitation so you might have read it. And what I basically will try to do today is connect it to the themes of today’s session, namely space, contestations and time. So let me start with that.
[Section-introducing slide titled “Space: The distributional effects of infrastructural projects”]
Udo Pesch: In the first part is that on space and we studied energy controversies around the projects in which new energy systems are implemented, are being developed. And what if you looked from that from a spatial perspective you see that there are distributional effects. And I think it’s really elementary to emphasize this because it’s so often neglected.
[Slide showing a map of Netherlands with a lot of dots on across the map and alongside it a sketch containing a few windmills, and two persons on top of horses facing each other, standing next to the windmills]
Udo Pesch: So, for instance, here you see a map of the Netherlands with wind parks that have been constructed already and a lot of new wind parks should be constructed. And there’s racist oppositions, usually from local communities who happen to live nearby a prospective wind park. It’s not only wind parks.
[Slide showing multiple pictures of protestors bearing placards with messages written in Dutch]
Udo Pesch: We’ve also studied shale gas exploration in the Netherlands, carbon capture storage project in the Netherlands. There are issues with gas exploration and other energy projects, and we’ve covered a range of these projects over the last few years I would say since 2014 or so. And that gives us a wide array of insights of how these things works and what the societal and ethical implications of these projects were.
[Slide showing a picture of a house’s backyard with a hidden person holding a placard that says “Not here” and another person standing alongside holding a placard that says “Then where?”:
Opponents are usually seen as:
Udo Pesch: And we were basically focusing on, you know, the resistance, people that protested against, you know, these projects and also we noted this general disposition of project developers and decision makers that these people, these protesters were seen as NIMBY-S, not in my backyard opponents, that were basically considered to be self-interested, also often irrational and in any case uninformed people that were not interested in the public interest of having renewable energy systems but only took care of their own, you know, direct environment.
[Slide showing a bar graph titled “Share of energy from renewable sources in the EU states (2018, in % of gross final energy consumption)”, a picture of windmills:
Infrastructural projects bring about a distribution of local costs and (usually) national benefits]
Udo Pesch: And I think this NIMBY label still I think still going strong, but it disregards this very fundamental issue about the distribution of cost and benefits. Ibo just talked about distributional justice and I think if you apply this or connect this to these kinds of projects you see is clearly see, yeah, a distribution of costs for local communities and benefits for say the nation the state or the region or Europe or even the globe. So, I mean this difference is pretty salient and I think it characterizes also the nature of the contestations and the controversies that going on. So, the spatial divide between costs and benefits is crucial in understanding yeah opposition and the way these projects are being run.
[Slide showing a graphical representation of men and women speaking:
Opposition opens up this debate on the justice of these distribution]
Udo Pesch: I think that this opposition basically opens up debate it kind of points towards the issue of justice, there’s something to be distributed, a good as Ibo just said, and that needs to be discussed and now it’s often neglected.
[Section-introducing slide bearing the following text:
- Contestations: The role of justice as recognition in controversies on infrastructural projects]
Udo Pesch: So let us dive into these ethical issues, the character of justice. And Ibo already announced that I would talk about justice as recognition because I think it plays a very important role in understanding the way these controversies take place.
[Slide showing the following:
- A protest sign that says “Stop schaliegas”
- A text that says, “Initial question: Are there public values that allow for the responsible innovation of energy projects?”
- Two graphics showing hierarchical relationships between different types of values with substantive values and procedural values]
Udo Pesch: And I’d like you to take you back a little basically to the start of this series of projects that I was talking about. And our first project which I think we started in 2013 or 2014, correct me if I’m wrong, was on development of shale gas in the southern part of the Netherlands. And our starting point was, we were very much interested in values, and I think you already saw that with Ibo’s presentation, we’re key on values. And our idea was, well, if you could identify the values that are at stake in a technology or socio-technical system and if you could design them or implement them into the project, into the technology, into the procedures, etc. etc., could you make a better technology, more acceptable technology? So that’s basically what kind of started.
So, we found say the policy goals, the values that are shared by policy makers and that you could recognize in most energy policies. So, you see them here on the left side, security of supplies, sustainability, affordability, which can be broken down into other kinds of values. But we also found procedural values that had to do what people found important of, you know, the whole process. It’s about the distribution of effects of goods and bads. It’s about the fairness of how the procedures went, whether participatory settings were done in a good way, whether the legislation was sufficiently covered etc. etc., the accountability, the transparency of the procedure before that explained a lot of the discontent of the people but it didn’t really catch the essence of their discontent I would say.
- A quadrant with 2 axes. At the end of the vertical axe are the terms “rights” (top) and “responsibilities” (bottom) and the horizontal axe are the terms “procedures” (right-end) and “distributions” (left-end)
- A view of a pyramid with “distributions” and “responsibilities” written on the two visible sides and “recognitions” written on the bottom
- A picture of a poster bearing the following words “Groningen geen wingewest”, “Volkes Congres Groningen” along with time, date and place of a demonstration.
- A picture of a Native American against the backdrop of the US Capital building]
Udo Pesch: Then we were basically confronted with this idea of the notion of justice as recognition and to me that rang a bell basically that basically explained why people were so angry, why they had so much discontent and what couldn’t explain in the more traditional forms of justice as distributional justice and procedural justice. But still it felt some kind of a stretch, justice as recognition is very much, I think, at least in the field of energy, very much connected to say local communities that have been disadvantaged or exploited in in the history. It’s very much also connected to, say, first nations in northern parts of America and obviously we don’t have those kind of events or histories within the Netherlands.
So, it felt like a bit of strange, but if you really take a look at what’s going on within those communities that are opposing that they do take on the same sentiment, they develop the same kind of identity, they develop the same kind of narratives that are really comparable to those of disenfranchised people elsewhere. And here you see on the right-hand side a banner of people from Groningen which is the northern province of the Netherlands which is used for gas exploration over the last, say, 60 years and this is a poster from 1972 in which they say we are a colony, we are colonized by the western part of the Netherlands, they just, you know, take our glass, they become rich and we are just now being neglected. And this is basically a story that creates their identity as a group, as a community and is being reproduced over and over again. And it explains their identity, explains their feeling and their sentiment as a group and also their anger towards the elites, toward of the rest of the Netherlands.
[Slide showing a picture containing a map of Netherlands with a line showing the route between two places in the country, photos of 3 persons and a caption that says, “Ver van Den Haag: ‘Oost-Groningen blijft altijd een wingewest”]
Udo Pesch: I just copied a page from today. Today is an election day in the Netherlands. So, this is the national broadcasting service, the news website, and they again have the same story. They have interviewed some people from Groningen who are saying well we are still a colony, and we are remaining to be a colony and we’re very angry and these people now vote for extreme right-wing parties because they’re angry with the western part of the Netherlands post. And also, I mean their relation with energy issues is a big thing because there’s a lot of wind turbines being developed in this region which has been exploited over the years also for gas and peat before that. So, it’s a long history of using energy resources from that region and they feel exploited by the rest of the country. So, this explains this idea of justice as recognition that they’re angry because these people do not feel recognized, and they like to be recognized.
[Slide showing a set of images and text showing the relationship between “Procedural justice” (shown along with an image of a weighing scale bearing the words ‘Emphasis on the general and universal character’), “justice as recognition” (shown along with an image of a candle light vigil bearing the words ‘Emphasis on special and local character’), both of which are connected to “Distribution Justice” in the centre (shown as a cake with equal slices held by different hands).
Udo Pesch: Bringing these things together, basically says, well, the core of the matter is still this issue of distributional justice as, you know, how to divide the cake how to divide the costs and the advantages. And what you see is that a lot of decision makers and project developers basically approach this question from the standpoint of procedural justice. They like to focus on the general and universal character of things and stick to the laws, stick to the rules and procedures, use all kinds of neutral arguments, tools to decide, okay what’s the best place, for instance, to have wind park place with a lot of wind, with not a lot of people, okay let’s go to Groningen because it’s convenient for us. On the other hand, you see protesting communities who approach the same justice issue from the perspective of justice as recognition, basically emphasizing the special historically developed and local character of the place that they’re in and they want this to be accounted for.
[Slide showing 3 images of different types of protest:
Adding justice as recognition helped to explain why people were so angry and why decision-makers and communities do not understand each other]
Udo Pesch: And this basically I think explains to at least to some extent the mutual misunderstanding between decision makers and protesters or local communities. And I think you see at the bottom left, a picture of the Minister for Energy Affairs, who was basically almost violently addressed by the people from Groningen because they were so angry with him and it says “Wiebes Minister, go away”. So, there’s a lot of misunderstanding I think caused by having a different approach to justice here.
III. Time: The cyclical nature of decision-making]
Udo Pesch: I will talk about contestation but at least [not clear] from the issue of time. Basically, what I want to talk about here is the cyclical nature of decision making which is I think very typical for these kinds of projects.
[Slide showing two pictures of protests and a cross-sectional depiction of a carbon-capture facility)
Udo Pesch: And this was very much I think inspired I work here by the situation in Barendrecht that is a little town south of Rotterdam. So, we have a big harbour in Rotterdam and a lot of CO2 emissions, and the idea was, oh there’s an empty gas field in this town, we can basically capture the CO2 and store it beneath this town. So, what you see is [not clear], a lot of people are in favour of it, municipalities of Rotterdam, the harbour, ministries, Shell company, so the producers of CO2 basically, and say okay, well, let’s come together and make an assessment and think about it in a structured way and see whether it can work out. And then there were a lot of people, you know, protesting from Barendrecht and they said well, no, as you see and bottom left this photo say no against CO2, we don’t want to live on a bomb as they would say. And the protest would become so, you know, manifest and people were so angry and also the local authorities were really opposed to this project, so, in the end the minister decided to stop, so that’s in 2010, the minister decided to stop this project because there was no public support.
- Proposal: An idea for a project
- Formal assessment: Applying tools and methods to determine the impact of known values
- Informal assessment: A local community takes this proposal as an issue, which shapes its identity and brings about emerging values
- Reaction: Emergent values lead to changes in the project (‘backflow’)]
Udo Pesch: Basically, one wanted to systematize this event which we think is really typical for the way these things are going. So, first there’s a project and which is being formally assessed, so tools and methods are applied to determine the impact of values that are known, in this case the risks, you know, the dangers of putting stuff underground and the risk of having earth waste or leakages. These failures are being decided on by this consortium, a couple of, you know, organizations that come together and basically negotiate what the important values are. And what you see happening in these local communities is not that they stick to these values, but they make their own assessment in a very informal way, they think about, okay, we know how does it affect us how does it affect my living here, what does it mean to me living above a CO2 field, is it dangerous, what’s the effect on my health, on the housing prices? And they try to convey these worries, these concerns obviously to the decision makers who in this case basically re-emphasize, well, don’t care, it’s not dangerous, you know, we calculated the risks, and they are basically non-existent.
People from the communities have a big, they just didn’t get that point across because people who were the decision makers were not receptive to these emerging values, the emerging concerns that were not articulated in the values that were covered in the formal assessment. You get a reaction and in this case the reaction was basically, well, we stopped the project because there’s no way that we can include, at least that’s our reading, include the emergent values within the project. There was basically a deadlock which was finished, and the concerns of the people weren’t taken into consideration. And this happened also in the Shell gas projects.
[Slide showing a relationship between ‘Overflowing’, ‘Existing Values’, ‘Framing’, ‘Issues’, ‘Emergent Values’ and ‘Backflow (reframing)’ overlaid on a picture of a car crossing a flooded street.]
Udo Pesch: Okay, another systemization, how we use it, basically using the framework of Michelle Collum, what you see is that decision makers frame the issue, they institutionalize on the base of existing values the project to be, but it leads to overflowing. Like you see in this picture, you know, you have the road, you have the drainage system, which is there to, you know, prevent the water being on the road but sometimes you have too much water and it overflows the containers just on and the drainage system just cannot keep it in. And there are all kinds of issues that can give rise to overflow. These issues mobilize people from communities to form as a public, to form as a community and to become discontent with the project, trying to convey their new values in a way and try to connect this to the project. And the basic challenge is how to reframe the project, what we call a backflow in such a way that it connects to these emergent values and this is something that we do not see happening or at least hardly see happening.
[Slide showing a graphical depiction of relationship between ‘formal trajectory of assessment’ and ‘informal trajectory of assessment’ and their various elements]
Udo Pesch: So, bringing everything together both down to this figure, that’s also in the article, so we have two assessment trajectories – one formal based on judicial rationality, procedural justice and a neutral point of view; on the other hand, you see a narrative rationality based on the identity of these people and the need to be recognized on the basis of this identity and very much starting from a viewpoint of the special nature of the community.
- Nimbyism imposes a label on protestors, obstructing communities to forward an autonomous self-definition
- Self-interest can be a trigger for public interest
- Emotions are not irrational but give rise to collective action
- Publics introduce new knowledge, perspectives and values]
Udo Pesch: I think we would have to reconsider or re-articulate opposition not as NIMBY-ism, just imposes a label on protesters which basically obstructs their the capacity, the democratic I think demand, also to forward their own self-definition. I think opposition is not a manifestation of self-interest even though it can be so in the beginning, but it can also be seen as a trigger for nurturing public interest, for engaging people and starting a deliberation in a democratic way. And emotions are very crucial in this because these emotions motivate people, mobilize people to engage in collective action, so they should not be discouraged at all.
- It is important to see controversies as opportunities to opening up decision-making processes to new perspectives and new values
- Opposition (and society in general) is often seen as a hurdle that should be overcome, this makes it hard to have more informed and democratic infrastructure projects
- Infrastructure projects (and policies in general) are often seen as discrete cases, while such projects have a cyclical and dialectic pattern
- Projects should be evaluated not upon their isolated outcomes, but on their capacity to produce legitimate and effective ‘backflows’]
And obviously publics introduce new knowledge, perspectives and values and they should be taken into account and controversy should be seen as such. And all too often, you know, opposition and basically society in general is seen as something that obstructs projects and policies. And if this is the, you know, the point of departure, then it becomes really hard to really get the society board and to really account for the information and democracy that could go into this project. And it mean it also I think it can be recognized in a way that policy makes and decision makers obviously projects and policies as discrete entities, they should be evaluated on their own as isolated entities and not as, you know, as the cyclical and basically ignoring the cyclical nature that had just described. And it would be better to evaluate projects on their capacity to produce backflows that are legitimate and effective instead of just looking at a certain isolated separate project.
Stanley Blue: Really interesting to think about the cyclical nature of infrastructure projects and development and responses as well.
Nicola Labanca: Yes, thank you for the interesting presentation. I would have a couple of question. I was wondering whether in your study you have considered the aspect of ownership and size of infrastructures because it is something that is often neglected but the simple fact that communities or individuals may become the owner of windmills completely change the perspective. When they protest it’s because they see someone else with maybe a vested interest that wanted to do things on their territory. And concerning size then small things and small infrastructures in general fit better with the context. And so, I was wondering whether these two aspects have received the attention in studies on energy justice in general.
Udo Pesch: Yeah, I think we’ve seen that quite often in our projects and the things that we study. I think it’s still a danger in seeing compensation or ownership as basically the silver bullet. One thing is that it, you know, it raises new distributive issues, namely there are people that still own that live nearby enough that become owner of, for instance, a wind turbine and wind park, and there are still people that are seeing the wind park but live just outside the boundary and they might become angry. Another thing is that people might feel bribed by policy makers or project developers and they might even increase their distrust to project developers, and this is something you cannot control I think or anticipate. In general, I think it’s absolutely a good idea to stimulate ownership but there I mean just not the silver bullet.
The second one, yeah, that’s like a joke among project developers now, saying if you want to have a solar energy farm, just announce that you will be making a wind park because then people will automatically endorse the solar field because it has less visual impact. Yeah, I mean people are aware, especially product developers that size really matters on the resistance. On the other end, I mean the challenges, you know, the Paris Agreements and so on demand big installations, especially if you talk about wind turbines. So that people see this challenge but the demand for the energy transition is just so enormous that we cannot do it alone by having small installations. Yeah, and so it’s a lot of trade-offs to be made by product developers.
Sahrakorpi Tiia: Thank you. I really enjoyed your presentation, and it was really nice to see how you’re bringing emotions and emotions frameworks into your discussion because they play such a huge role in how people act and they are, you know, as you were saying that it’s not irrational. It’s quite rational why and how we do things and sort of like how Sarah Ahmed says that, you know, emotions do things and we’re always influenced by what’s happening outside but also inside of ourselves. So, I thought that was really great to see. And I was also just thinking about and wondering if this has been sort of something that you’ve noticed or thought about is the role of gender in these opposition groups. The reason why I’m asking this is because I was looking at the 1979 post-Harrisburg accident in the US and it was quite like a female-led protest movement who were very focused on the health effects of, you know, the accident. So, has this been like a more, have you seen these sorts of things in Europe, for example, or is this, was this kind of an insulated phenomena in the nuclear sort of sphere?
Udo Pesch: I think we’ve only seen grey old men. I think there is a general dimension but it’s yeah it’s very implicit and a bit hidden. I think and there are some people working on that, maybe not in the Netherlands, it’s more clear I think especially in developing countries obviously. I think it’s a very interesting theme to think about but we haven’t been to there yet.
Behnam Taebi: Maybe regarding the reference that was made to Harrisburg, I don’t think it was an isolated event in the nuclear discussions, but I just want to say that even later on even more recently in the UK there’s been a lot of interesting research done emphasizing also the gender role in risk perception and risk acceptance and the level of acceptance of risk. But what Udo was referring to was that it was our own probably very biased observation that we had white old male basically objecting in every single meeting that we attended. There’s also the show going on the retired men who don’t have anything else to do, they come to these meetings to object to the windmills. But that’s again perhaps something that we didn’t very explicitly investigated right, Udo?
Udo Pesch: No, but I think it’s a general observation also project developers, you know, that they say it’s such a small segment of the population and they all mean, I’ve seen these photos of people that, you know, interested people they all they even wear the same clothes, it’s really amazing. It’s well worth to be investigated but we haven’t come around to that yet.
Sahrakorpi Tiia: Yeah, I really think it’s really striking, and I think we see the same in all these like yellow vest movements we see lots of, you know, men feeling that they are disenfranchised. So, I think this does kind of expand into larger studies of masculinity in the west, for example, or in Europe and what does that mean.
Elizabeth Shove: I was thinking about a really long-term history here. So, as you mentioned these events are happening at a particular, you know, in a certain decade and in a certain location. But what, if anything, if you were to think about opposition especially in the Netherlands to building windmills in the 17th and 18th century. Or was there? And or any other kind of infrastructure actually. I mean most infrastructures are contested in some way. So rather than thinking of all this activism and meaning and effect or some kind of like now issue, I want to know whether you’ve kind of thought through a long history. I mean, not because it’s interesting in its own sake but it just questions the kind of slightly positive glow that surrounds some of these sorts of debates and discussions. And yeah, what was the opposition to industrial pumping windmills, if any, and if there wasn’t, why not?
Udo Pesch: One member of our team, Aad Correljé, has done quite a lot of research on the gas exploration of in, say, the 20th century but I don’t think we have covered those kinds of questions about windmills in the 17th century and so on.
Correljé, A. F., Cuppen, E., Dignum, M., Pesch, U., & Taebi, B. (2015). Responsible innovation in energy projects: Values in the design of technologies, institutions and stakeholder interactions Responsible Innovation 2 (pp. 183-200): Springer International Publishing.
Cuppen, E., Brunsting, S., Pesch, U., & Feenstra, Y. (2015). How stakeholder interactions can reduce space for moral considerations in decision making: A contested CCS project in the Netherlands. Environment and Planning A, 47(9), 1963-1978.
Cuppen, E., Ejderyan, O., Pesch, U., Spruit, S., van de Grift, E., Correljé, A., et al. (2020). When controversies cascade: Analysing the dynamics of public engagement and conflict in the Netherlands and Switzerland through “controversy spillover”. Energy Research & Social Science, 68, 101593.
Cuppen, E., Pesch, U., Remmerswaal, S., & Taanman, M. (2019). Normative diversity, conflict and transition: Shale gas in the Netherlands. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 145, 165-175.
Dignum, M., Correljé, A., Cuppen, E., Pesch, U., & Taebi, B. (2016). Contested Technologies and Design for Values: The Case of Shale Gas. [journal article]. Science and Engineering Ethics, 22(4), 1171-1191.
Dignum, M., Pesch, U., & Correljé, A. (2020). Frames of reference and the interpretation of values in the Dutch shale gas debate Responsible Innovation in Large Technological Systems (pp. 40-63): Routledge.
Pesch, U., Correljé, A., Cuppen, E., & Taebi, B. (2017). Energy justice and controversies: Formal and informal assessment in energy projects. Energy Policy, 109, 825-834.]
Udo Pesch: So this is basically the list of articles that we that I use for this presentation and if you go to the third one on spill overs, so Cuppen et al. 2020 in ERSS, it basically introduces this idea that these historical narratives spill over in these controversies and it’s very much on this continuity in Groningen province because it was exploited for peat in, say, starting the 16th century until the 19th century, then it was exploited for gas in the 20th century and now it’s being exploited for wind in the 21st century. Our prime minister Mark Rutte said during the election talks that, well, it’s a good place to build a nuclear reactor and then the Groningen people, really, look are you mad, you know, we have been exploited for 500 years now, go away the nuclear reactor.
So that sentiment really shaped their, you know, it’s stacking their resistance. I think in the western part of the Netherlands where you have the windmills and boulders, there’s another legacy because there is this also this narrative that we share in the western part that I mean it shows how great we are so we will cherish our windmills and our capacity to conquer nature basically. I don’t know whether this plays a role in our assessment or evaluation of wind turbines. Usually it’s quite negative, so doesn’t people do not make that connection there. It’s a very yeah very interesting point of view and I’d also be nice to pick on that one time.
Mikko Jalas: I was wondering on the kind of Finnish situation that, for example, we have a kind of a deep storage for long high radioactive nuclear waste and my understanding is that the community has not or there hasn’t been a lot of resistance in that community. So, I just started to think that whether when the kind of consequences or potential consequences are far enough, is that just the way that it plays out or whether CO2 storage is something kind of, I’m not sure, this is more kind of like both about the technologies and then the time scale of things. I’ve kind of always really wondered this resistance towards wind turbines since they can be quite easily, you know, taken down and the permanency of the harm is not very significant. So, any thoughts on kind of particular aspects of, you know, energy projects or storages that make them, you know, problematic.
Udo Pesch: I like to think of these the issues as being really contingent in public form around certain issues that pop up with this kind of ironic debates even between project developers. So, when these projects in about shale gas and carbon capture storage were developed in the southern part of the Netherlands the project developers said, why are these people so angry, the people in Groningen have been so happy with, you know, gas exploration for the last 50 years. And it took only two weeks later that, you know, the whole Groningen basically became, you know, berserk and say we are not taking it any longer. I mean there’s a lot of contingency and what we call spill overs, a lot of contamination basically of these controversies all around. And I would be very sceptical of, I know a lot of project developers actually asked for that, you know, what, you know, what motivates people to become angry. And I don’t think there’s a finite list of characteristics here, can be anything.
Behnam Taebi: Nicola, if you would be up for a chat during the break, I had a question for you, and maybe also for Mikko. Because you were referring to the Finnish situation with respect to nuclear waste. I think first of all the rest of Europe is just basically very jealous about how much trust there is in public authorities and how little resistance about waste disposal. But I was also very much interested in the ownership issue mentioned earlier. I remember having heard in a presentation by an anthropologist earlier on that ownership of nuclear reactors in Finland is partially public ownership and that has contributed to, I couldn’t find a full picture about it. Could you tell me more about it maybe?
Mikko Jalas: It’s initially state initiated projects in the middle 1970s. So, purely kind of state-led projects on buying reactors from the Soviet Union, two of them. And then, 1978, a consortia of industrial actors of forest industry companies, metal industry, putting a kind of a commercial scheme. So, we basically have those two schemes still operating with some updates in the reactors. And then the state initiative is maybe a bit more commercialized, it’s owned by Fortum, this earlier scheme now but still remains I think majority of the shares are owned by the state.
Sahrakorpi Tiia: You were just wondering like why is there no opposition.
Behnam Taebi: But it is very interesting phenomenon. Indeed, I was wondering if ownership has contributed to lack of opposition or more degrees of acceptance.
Sahrakorpi Tiia: My thinking is that it’s purely sort of a Finnish societal, like, governmental structural design on purpose because when they initially decided that, you know, Finland needs nuclear, it was just decided in a small boardroom by some academics and politicians. This was not at all like anything that was discussed publicly. So, there was no discussion like, you know, in a newspaper, oh, should we have nuclear or not and what’s the, you know, pros and cons of it. It was something that it was very autocratic. I think we’re going to see some problems with that in the near future, maybe Mikko you have more to say than I do about this. But I’m thinking about now that we have, we’re moving towards more energy communities and more of this sort of, you know, the distribution of energy services that people are just used to this top down of, you know, we’re told what to do and we just accept it and that’s not maybe not democratic I think ultimately with energy services.
Behnam Taebi: It remains very surprising, both Finland and Sweden and how much also I think it’s also a matter of trust, how much trust there is in public authorities, in our public decisions. Really, I’m not, I’m very serious when I said that that the Dutch policymakers are really envy how things go in Finland.
Sahrakorpi Tiia: Well I mean if you look at, you know, Germany, for example, I mean it’s again a really interesting case study actually and how much the long-term societal changes and shifts really matter and then can be detrimental for, you know, a sustainable energy transition, and the energy [not clear] isn’t really sustainable, I mean if they’re, you know, you took our nuclear now [not clear] coal power, like that’s not probably not what they meant to do and wanted to do. But it just shows how much, you know, this distrust and also their understanding of what is democratic is evolved based on their historical contingencies.
Nicola Labanca: The question of ownership have several implications obviously related to democracy and the politics in general. So, I wonder whether it can be dismissed but also in terms of flexibility, you know, the fact that you can somehow achieve integration of demand and supply at the local level in principle might deserve to be considered also for the implication on flexibility aspects.
Mikko Jalas: I was thinking here somehow I was connecting more back to the issues of rhythms and time and I was trying to imagine whether we could have someone, you know, protesting like, you know, let’s keep our Sundays as Sundays or something like that and it’s rhythms have so much less ownership than, you know, space. So, there’s no one to kind of protect their ground in terms of time it seems to me. So, have you noticed about, you know, fierce demonstrations over timing of issues?
Udo Pesch: Well, that’s just an interesting question whether it pops up, you know, what you describe with, you know, making flexibilizing these infrastructures, that this might be an issue for the future.
Mikko Jalas: Mostly people demonstrate for flexibility or rally for, you know, having more flexibility in the society. So, freedoms as kind of shared social structure is not, there are very few kind of or institutions, organizations that would defend them.
Behnam Taebi: And not if flexibility comes at a price, by the way.
Udo Pesch: I mean if there comes costs and these are distributed unevenly.
[Introduction slide titled “Electrification and flexibility: opportunities, tensions and alternatives” presented by Eva Heiskanen, Kaisa Matschoss, Senja Laakso, Jenny Rinkinen, Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti from University of Helsinki]
Eva Heiskanen: So, many thanks for the invitation to be here and the opportunity especially as we don’t really deserve it. We are not really working a lot on flexibility in this project, but I thought, I’d sort of link this to electrification and the links between electrification and flexibility to look at some of the, indeed the tensions and the alternatives. And this presentation is developed together with colleagues Kaisa Matschoss, Senja Laakso, Jenny Rinkinen who is here and Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti who is also here. And this is not a research, not even a work in progress, but just an idea in progress, how to understand and maybe communicate on and rearrange electrification, considering citizens in everyday life perspectives. So, I have a lot of background, a small, very tentative conceptual approach, some very initial analysis, which is like more in the form of hypotheses, in order to consider perhaps alternative arrangements for electrification or of electrification and consider whether there could be alternatives to electrification.
The background for my interest in this is, I have been involved, as have some others in my team, have been involved in a smart energy transition project. Mikko Jalas has also been there. And one of the things that the project developed was a fossil-free Finland scenario, very similar to many other fossil-free scenarios elsewhere in Europe. And one of the things that the project said is that electrification of the energy system needs to be enhanced. So, this project was really promoting electrification and now I’m together with colleagues having a project called “citizens everyday life and tensions in the energy transition” which is looking a little at who and what resists and creates perhaps problems to be solved for the energy transition. Concerning flexibility and electrification, how they connect, well, it is obvious perhaps.
Removal of fossil fuels while providing current services requires electrification of heating, mobility and industry, since the energy sources that can be expanded without aggravating climate change are intermittent. And I see that this like large scale flexibility in the energy system is resulting from, there could be other reasons, but the scale results from the introduction and the future introduction of intermittent energy sources. And just to add that perhaps not everything of course can be electrified or made flexible at least right now, so current energy policy thinking in Finland in the EU is considering both user side flexibility and sort of system flexibility which could be related to power to fuels or using surplus power to produce products, ammonia, proteins, what not, as well as storage. So, I guess we cannot make a completely flexible and completely electrified energy system, but there are some design considerations and who then gets to do what in the system is a question.
[Slide titled “This is not the first round of electrification…”:
- A picture of the cover of a book titled “Networks of power: Electrification in the Western society, 1880-1930) by Thomas P. Hughes
- A picture of the cover of a book titled “The Languages of Edison’s Light” by Charles Bazerman
- A picture of the cover of a book titled “Consumers in the Country: Technology and social change in rural America by Ronald R. Kline]
Eva Heiskanen: So, and of course, further background is that this isn’t the first round of electrification. Of course, there’s lots of history of technology dealing with previous even bigger sort of efforts at electrification, like Hughes’ reverse salience and bottlenecks in electrification and how it was marketed at the time as well as clients, consumers in the country which is about how automobiles, telephone lines and electric power was introduced to rural America. And how it was resisted and what alternative sort of uses and ways of using our people came up with eventually. Present-day Finland, which is the context of our study, we have a government commitment to be net carbon neutral by 2035. The share of fossil fuels in an electricity production has declined a lot especially as we have closed down condensing coal-fired power plants and wind power has expanded and is expected to expand in the future, so that is displayed in the bottom right-hand corner of our picture or how it has declined. And the top right-hand picture shows that industry is definitely the largest energy user and there are programs and roadmaps for electrifying industry, for example, steel production.
[Slide titled “The case of Finland”:
- A pie-chart showing energy consumption by sector in Finland (Industry and non-industry energy use: 49%, Transport: 16%, Residential: 20%, Commercial and public services: 12%, Agriculture, forestry, fishing, etc.: 3%)
- A bar graph
- Government commitment to be (net) carbon neutral by 2035
- Share of fossil fuels in electricity production has declined, expected to decline further as wind power production expands
- Programs & roadmaps for electrifying industry e.g. steel production
- Mobility (and to a lesser extent heating) seen as major concerns]
Eva Heiskanen: So, mobility, transport and mobility and residential heating or even public building heating are not the biggest things, but they are seen as major concerns for our electrification. So, they’re getting more and more policy attention.
[Slide titled “How does the general public feel about electrification?” bearing the following text:
- Opinion polls show widespread support for increasing wind and solar power
- Yet some comments to media news items on EVs suggest scepticism toward the social benefits of electrification:
“Electric cars are pointless and pollute more than current diesel using MYdiesel. Finnish electricity is partly produced with fossil fuels, and thus electric cars produce more carbon dioxide in their entire cycle. On top of this, there are more emissions from microparticles since there is 30% more weight”
“the price of electricity is exploding”, ”if everyone charges their car at once, the grid will collapse”]
- In the news item comments, these sceptical comments are often added to other, more personal concerns
Eva Heiskanen: Even while our government is really promoting electrification, the general public seems to be slightly more sceptical. So, even if we have opinion polls showing widespread support for increasing wind and solar power, I have been looking at comments on media news items and especially concerning electric vehicles and you can see quite a lot of scepticism there. So, as you have probably seen in other countries as well, people argue that electric cars are pointless and they pollute more than conventional fuels, there are concerns that the price of electricity will explode as we are electrifying everything and if everyone charges their car at once the grid will collapse. And these sorts of sceptical comments towards the whole idea are often combined in these social media news item comments by the public with more personal concerns to somehow give them weight and in general interest.
[Slide titled “Electrification of heating and mobility might provide benefits for users” bearing a picture of a clay-tile rooftop with a chimney jutting out of it:
Apart from the climate arguments …
- Lower operating costs, lower total costs over a period of years
- Lower maintenance requirements
(especially heating vs. oil)
- Cleanliness, air quality
- Some users benefit more than others …]
Eva Heiskanen: Irrespective of whether what buys into the sort of climate argument for electrification, it could still bring benefits for users, such as, lower operating costs definitely both in electric vehicles and in heat pumps especially which is the form of electric heating that is being promoted. Could also bring lower maintenance requirements, cleaner systems and better air quality and they definitely today provide subsidies. So, we have subsidies both for electric vehicles and for switching from oil heating to heat pumps. But perhaps what gains less attention is some users benefit more than others and it seems on the basis of very initial observations that that it is again the rural poor who are perhaps suffering more than others and resisting this development.
[Slide titled “Conceptual approach: analysing (and perhaps remaking) attachments”:
- Marres’ (2007) concept of attachments: an approach to understanding who are affected by technological change and how (as an alternative to “framing”): ”When accounting for public involvement in politics, we should focus not only on the frames that actors mobilize to enact their concern with issues, but also on their attachments to things and people.”
- Attachments have a discursive angle highlighted in textual and visual accounts + socio-material angle constituted by institutional, physical, monetary and legal ties + subjective/life history angle, via actors’ dependency on and commitment to things]
Eva Heiskanen: Very initially also conceptual approach to analysing this topic, I have had an interest in Noortje Marres’ concept of attachments which is an approach to understanding who are affected by technological change and how and who consequently should be involved in this public debate about technology. And her argument is that we should not only focus on discursive frames but also on people’s attachment to things and people. So, the notion of attachment has a discursive angle highlighted in textual and visual accounts and it has a socio-material angle related to the institutional and physical, monetary and legal ties as well as subjective or I would maybe prefer to say a sort of life history angle of violent actors, dependency and commitment to things which have built up over time as a result of the interaction between human and non-human actors.
[Slide titled “Discursive aspect of electrification: the need to “forget” old perceptions about infrastructures/electricity”:
- A picture of a cover of a book titled “Ministry of Environment Committee on raising the property tax on electric heated homes” published in 2009
- An incremental coloured scale/ band from A to G where A is the smallest and greenest band and G is the longest and most red
- A picture of a bicycle captioned “Tax benefit for employee electric bikes”
- A picture of an electric bike
- The following text:
- “Electricity is the most precious kind of energy and it mustn’t be wasted”
- “Peak power demand is a major concern for Finland”
- “We must avoid all electricity imports” (which are ”from Russia”, actually just 1/4)]
Eva Heiskanen: If we then look at electrification from these three different lenses very initially, the discursive aspect of electrification at least in Finland implies the need to sort of forget old perceptions about infrastructures and electricity. So, people my age have been told that electricity is the most precious kind of energy and it mustn’t be wasted. We are still regularly told that peak power demand is a major concern especially by the media if there are some cold days or weeks. And there are concerns continually in the media about electricity imports and many people believe that these are from Russia when actually it is only one-fourth. And our policies also have made about an 180 degrees turn. So, we used to have 10 years or more slightly more ago, committee by the Ministry of Environment sitting and discussing whether they should raise the property tax on electric heated homes, because at that time we used a lot of fossil fuels and condensing coal-fired plants to create electricity when the demand was greatest. They eventually didn’t introduce this, but it was a topic that was aired.
We have the energy performance certificate that had previously higher primary energy factor for electricity showing that it was more problematic now it has gone down, but I’m not sure everybody has noticed this. And now we actually have policies that are promoting electrification not only of electric vehicles but also, for example, electric bikes which has raised some discussion in the social media. And we are not actually promoting electric scooters, but they are tolerated in the cities in spite of some health and safety concerns that they regularly raise. So, it might be difficult for people to quite understand how something that we were supposed to be worried about somehow is now something to embrace.
[Slide titled “Socio-material arrangements in electrification: the need to forget old rythms of upgrading”:
- A picture of an old-looking car
- A picture of a clay-tile rooftop bearing solar panels and a chimney jutting out
- Electrification of transport challenges the practice of driving >20 year old cars (15% of all cars in use), costing about €500-3 000
- Electrification of heating means shifting from oil to heat pumps (€4000 subsidy) – previously, e.g. adding a solar collector to oil heating was supported
>> challenging ryhthms of incremental upgrading]
Eva Heiskanen: Then, well, there could be many different socio-material arrangements in electrification that imply certain people, what I would like to raise here is a different kind of rhythm from what we have discussed until now and that is sort of rhythms of incremental upgrading, especially, rural low-income people tend to upgrade gradually. They spend a hundred or a few hundreds or a thousand on the car and on the house regularly rather than taking out a loan and buying a completely new thing. So, we have a large share of very old cars more than 20-year-old cars and a disproportionately large share in rural or more decent areas and for these people the idea of going to a bank and taking out a loan of 15-20,000 which is what an electric car cost today at the very least is somehow unthinkable. We also have seven percent of people who don’t have a credit rating and are thus not credit worthy at all. As well as in the home which has been traditionally gradually upgraded, now you should really switch, or you are encouraged to switch your entire heating system rather than add small incremental improvements which was sort of compatible with the financial rhythms of especially low-income and rural people. So that’s at least one of the socio-material arrangements that is challenged, maybe there are others.
[Slide titled “Commitments and dependencies”:
- A picture of a cartoon
- A picture of firewood
- A picture of petrol can
- Increased dependence on the power grid
- and on those who operate it, often embroiled in scandals in the aftermath of privatization and the costs of grid reinforcement
- Increased dependence on certified experts: no DIY!
- Commitments to self-maintenance, skills in managing particular solutions
- Local rythms and infrastructures of flexibility for the user, e.g. emergency reserves]
Eva Heiskanen: And then commitments and dependencies, well, of course, it is obvious that further electrification would increase dependence on the power grid as well as on the companies which are widely scandalized in the media as a result, not only of privatization which occurred in other European countries, but also significant grid reinforcement, the costs of which are borne by the customers. It also creates a new dependence perhaps on uncertified experts, people who are used to do-it-yourself are still not allowed legally to do anything with your AC electricity system. So, there’s not so much opportunity for do-it-yourself and or self-maintenance. So, this is especially with farmers, I don’t know if it is completely due to electrification or due to the increased modularization and integration of equipment that they are more difficult to repair oneself, but this is often blamed then on electrification. As well as sort of local rhythms and infrastructures of flexibility for the users such as having stockpiling wood or having your gasoline canister at hand, so it challenges existing ways of making one’s own life more flexible and resistant or resilient to any unexpected events.
[Slide titled “Current arrangements of electrification”:
- A picture of an electric charger being plugged into a car
- A picture of a house with a lot of natural lighting]
Eva Heiskanen: So, looking at the current arrangements of electrification, I took here two pictures which are showing how electrification is being promoted and I’m sure it really appeals to many middle class and better off people, these bright and clean and shiny pictures, where there is a special sign where you have the electricity. So, this probably appeals to some part of the population but for people who have lower incomes they maybe feel that maybe this is not really for me. So again, we have alternative arrangements of electrification.
[Slide titled “Alternative arrangements of electrification?”:
- A picture of an electric bicycle along with an under-construction electric bicycle, both captioned “DIY electrification”
- A picture of an electrified train track captioned “Older forms of electrified transport”
- Pictures of a battery, boiler and hot water tank, jointly captioned “Own sources of energy storage: e.g. battery, boiler, hot water tank from former oil tank?”]
Eva Heiskanen: These are just some thoughts, do-it-yourself electric bikes, maybe older forms of electrified transport, I’m sure rural people would really appreciate if the train were to stop again at their station and whether we can find ways, of new ways of storage so that people don’t feel so dependent on external events. We do have some energy companies promoting batteries which are very expensive and probably not cost effective in the long term. People do have boilers where you can store electricity as heat for later use in the heating system and there have been some ideas now aired on whether you could actually use your old oil tank for storing electricity. So, can we make a more like bricolage kind of electrification or might rural people actually engage in these themselves?
[Slide titled “Alternatives to electrification?”:
Networked systems tend to create or sustain existing patterns of demand (Coutard and Shove 2018)
- Reducing demand for energy services (e.g., mobility, heating, products) structural changes in society, infrastructures and rythms of conducting everyday life?
- Massively scaled power-to-fuels?
- Could there be combinations and local variations in general approaches to electrification?
Coutard, O., & Shove, E. (2018). Infrastructures, practices and the dynamics of demand. In: Infrastructures in practice: The dynamics of demand in networked societies, 10-22.]
Eva Heiskanen: And of course, we need to think about alternatives to electrification. So, we know that network systems tend to create or at least sustain existing patterns of demand and I think our current drive for electrification is very much in this line. So, can we consider reducing demand for energy services through structural changes in society and infrastructures and rhythms of conducting everyday life? Probably, yes. Can we do this in 15 years? Can we perhaps massively scale up power to fuels? Perhaps, yes. Definitely not in 15 years and whether this will be first delivered to the rural poor, I very much doubt. But could there be combinations and local variations in general approaches to electrification and that’s what I have an interest in. So, for example, could we have policies that would somehow reward people for frugal use of their old vehicle. We have a special car registry in Finland, and I think you have it in some other countries. We call it the museum car. It is exempt from vehicle tax. It has a lower insurance, mandatory traffic insurance rate. And could these perhaps be extended for a policy that somehow also acknowledges that there are other ways to save on or reduce one’s energy demand? So, this is what we might be exploring in future research and I’ll just say thank you.
Mikko Jalas: Thanks, Eva for a very nice presentation, and of course I have insight into the Finnish context that you described. Something that you didn’t speak so much was this idea of a kind of a life course, this kind of shifting from Marres’ idea of the subjective to the life course. Yes, I understand that you were describing it as what people have accustomed to or, you know, what is somehow normal but I, particularly from this kind of justice point of view, I’ve been wondering this question whether it’s just kind of acceptable that we learn to live with kind of the new conditions of our life and whether existing patterns need to be the kind of starting point of this justice question. So how to deal with this kind of a question and whether you what did you mean more explicitly with the life course idea?
Eva Heiskanen: Thanks, Mikko. I was perhaps like struggling a little with the word subjective and so I thought that attachments which Marres builds on work by Gomar and Hennian on dependencies and attachments of drug users and music enthusiasts is about how your own life and the life of various artifacts and sort of gets entangled with each other and so that was my thought about the life history. And I see the link to your second question whether we will have to give up many of our attachments perhaps for the future and whether this is indeed one of the things which is causing much of the trouble and resistance. And, well, that’s a good question which links back a little to what Ibo was talking about I think in a way that these things may not seem so important to outsiders like your ability to repair your tractor if you wanted to and if you got around to that, might not be very important for other people, but it has become part of you in a way, your identity and your general abilities in life. And because of that, when that is taken away, you lose perhaps also a part of yourself.
So, I agree that we might have to lose many parts of ourselves in this current situation, but the point was perhaps that others might not be able to see the value of these things or why they are valuable. So, you know, Mikko, because we are both from Finland that we don’t even use the word do-it-yourself or older people don’t use this word at all. So do-it-yourself is like a natural part of your general capabilities. When you go to have something repaired, you start by explaining why you didn’t do-it-yourself, so, because I didn’t have the tools, etc. So, it is a part of our identity to be able and to be sort of not lazy and to actually repair one’s own stuff and having to give that up might be problematic. Of course, it’s not completely due to electrification at all.
Elizabeth Shove: It’s a bit different but I was struck by your observations about storage, partly because Jacopo and Greg Marsden and I are beginning to think more carefully about storage. And the examples you gave were kind of buffers like the boiler and, you know, other sorts of things. So, I’m interested in the role of storage across all sorts of different energy systems and also where it is and how much it is and how it’s not like the network itself but the kind of holding tanks or systems that punctuate the network that allow continuity or different kinds of access than might otherwise be the case. So, basically, it’s just an invitation to say more about how you’re conceptualizing storage in this context.
Eva Heiskanen: Thanks, Elizabeth, really good question. Which I haven’t given a lot of thought to but I have been maybe in this drive for electrification in the policy discussions, the different forms of storage are perhaps treated more from a systems perspective. That was maybe what I was driving at, whereas people, citizens, some of us at least might appreciate having some storage just for your own use in a way, not for anybody else to use as storage. And this could be a form of tension as we go ahead and storage sort of gains more importance in the system, who then gets to use that storage or deplete that storage and when.
Jenny von Platten: Well, I actually have quite a specific question. As you mentioned that the primary energy factor for electricity had recently been changed in the energy performance certificates. Yeah, you said it was being reduced. And I found it interesting because in Sweden we recently had the opposite development where this factor was increased for electricity in housing, and this was brought about by like a strive for increased neutrality between different technologies. And there’s also been quite an ongoing debate in the industry where we have a lot of pride in our district heating networks and we want to promote that. So, I was just curious how what the debate has been like in Finland on this topic.
Eva Heiskanen: It could be that I’m not privy to every discussion that has been ongoing but I remember early versions of the energy performance certificate raised a lot of like public resistance and we had this even organized like resistance group that submitted a petition to the parliament about this that we should not have this primary energy factor at all, that it should just reflect what you buy and what you use rather than some energy conversion further down the system. And as I understand it is indeed the development in our modes of electricity production, which development is more recent in Finland than in Sweden, so we have now cut down on especially the condensing power and to some extent also on the combined heat and power and we have increased wind power in the system. But it is an interesting discussion. I certainly need to look into the fact if this is going in the different direction in Sweden.
Behnam Taebi: Just going back to the issue of storage, I wanted to say that because you refer to another meeting or reading room at some other moment, maybe I just wanted to say that we’re also doing a bit of work on storage in the Netherlands together with Udo and Nynke who’s also in this meeting. We are working on energy justice and storage particularly looking at hydrogen storage. If I may just add a sentence to that, I think there is a lot of work going on in storage, but storage connected with energy justice is lacking in the literature, that’s one, and they’re all that storage place inflexibility achieving is another one, that could be very interesting to sort of and the two of them merged together could provide for a very interesting subject.
Jacopo Torriti: When while you were speaking, I noted down neutrality, substitution, this is a bit time agnostic what you presented but in terms of, you know, connection with some of the previous work and what Mikko presented earlier, so, what I mean is, you know, in a sense it sounds very much like a binary or bi-directional, a megawatt in a megawatt out in a sense. And that’s a sense of regardless of when it is or what value it has for different people. So, it’s probably a first attempt to try and join some of it also with different, you know, of all the different presentations and discussion more than a remark on the work. But I think there’s something interesting around the narrative around flexibility in terms of substitution and I think I mean and the recent, you know, discussion around storage certainly connects with that in a sense that what can be a negative megawatt and what can be a positive megawatt and how can they be treated equally and can they be treated equally. So, I just wanted to throw these because it’s somewhat, just some notes that I took as you were speaking, more than a proper question.
Mikko Jalas: Okay, if there’s still time, you know, I was thinking of that to do-it-yourself quite strongly up and this kind of idea of people have kind of local means to cope with maybe even system challenges and so on and so forth. Again, I’m thinking about the rhythm, so there’s of course a lot of kind of do-it-yourself opportunities in changing your rhythms or timing. So, do you think that the Finnish mentality of requiring from oneself the kind of abilities to improvise and would we be kind of particularly good at adjusting to, you know, very aggressive dynamic pricing, for example? Are we very kind of happy to engage in what Sini has called big time rebates where you can actually earn money by single shifting of loads and so on? Is this kind of a new type of do-it-yourself activity, not repairing physical things like tractors but repairing the kind of failing energy system or however you want to say?
Eva Heiskanen: That’s a really good point and I do think that there are these isolated examples of people who definitely indeed take it as this kind of an optimization challenge or something like that, so that is a fun analog. And then I have done like some focus group discussions, it’s a bit some time ago, but then I have also heard people say that yeah if we have dynamic pricing then I hope there will be insurance that you can take out to avoid the dynamic pricing. So, I don’t know if there is a difference between these sort of like and this goes back a little also to what Udo was talking about. If there is a difference between these like man-made threats to your own like flexibility and your own attachments and threats that are perceived of as natural or unavoidable. And I’m wondering if people like more eagerly start to receive threats which are perceived of as man-made. Of course, no threats are just one or the other, whereas the more natural threats are perceived as something that you just have to adapt to and you just have to be inventive and you just have to cope with. And indeed, this electrification thing seems to be appearing more as a man-made thing than as a natural thing which to us it appears as more as a natural thing which we just will need to adapt to. So, that could be one aspect to explore also where this threat or this need to adapt seems to be coming from.
Elizabeth Shove: The idea of Finland being the balancing country of an entire interconnected European network. If we’ve got an entire nation of resilient and adaptable human beings, then other people can be much peakier in other countries or much less adaptable at the cost of the Fins in an interconnected way, which is not so different from weather systems being variable or I mean there really are proposals to link up electricity systems. So, why not also tariffs and why not also capitalize the Fins could sell their adaptability on the open market somehow? Is that the kind of international direction that you might be heading?
Eva Heiskanen: That is an interesting idea. I know in Norway they have been promoting like energy conservation on the grounds that we could then sell our power to other countries and that hasn’t, well, as I understand hasn’t gone down so well. So, I guess it depends on who gets to sell and who gets to benefit. So, people conserving energy so that somebody else can profit might not go down so well but perhaps there is a way to arrange this so that people would be happy to participate.
Udo Pesch: Yeah, isn’t that what is actually happening in the Netherlands? Because we don’t produce enough renewable energy ourselves. We basically import these certificates from Norway, so I think it’s already happening, and I think a lot of the discussions also, again with throwing in the northern part of the Netherlands, are can we have some kind of distribution channel from green energy. I don’t know the technical specifics, but I think it’s already taking shape. So, it’s not a science fiction story, it’s actually what’s on the ground now.
Jacopo Torriti: I think there’s a long history between Germany and Poland in terms of, you know, who provides a green energy, who provides a flexible peak, you know, and that kind of exchange, so it wouldn’t be certainly historically in isolation at least if it’s by historically we refer to the last 20 years or so. But in a sense what Elizabeth is saying also applies to national geographies and speciality because that conversation that we had at the beginning around in a sense socializing the costs of flexibility or who absorbs the costs of non-flexibility. Then that remains a question, right? And I think in this reading room we tentatively had some ideas as to how these might happen but, you know, it’s certainly not something that this reading room can resolve because it’s quite a major issue for the forthcoming years and I think it remains so regardless of whether you look at it from an equity or an energy justice perspective or from a perspective of how this interacts with everyday life. Just to mention too.
Mikko Jalas: Maybe I can continue my final thought or something that is burning in my mind is our kind of experience with the national rail company, railroad company service provider in Finland who really said to us that for them this is a revenue maximization issue, that they are not for, you know, peak load management, they are not for best use of their network, but it’s a profit maximization. And I really see that some of the controversies around flexibility or dynamic pricing will evolve around a kind of trust and these kind of positions of whether it’s like companies taking advantage of people who cannot, you know, shift or systems that are not flexible. And we notice that it seems that companies actually are not really interested that peak load in shifting because peaks are profitable and so that somehow needs to be in this discussion as a potential fact, which I’m not I have so much evidence yet.
Jacopo Torriti: And there are, it’s interesting, because there are at the same time, I think particularly in the UK but there is certainly forces which are of commercial nature in saying, you know, a megawatt should be valued, I’m here we really mean in British pound terms, as much as a production of or a generation of a megawatt. So, the old governance in the energy field is changing. I’m not too sure if, you know, which forces are stronger or whether there will be real change in what in the so-called transition but there is certainly room for a discussion around more governance and policy issues and is flexibility and alternative in that regard.
Mikko Jalas: Yeah, thanks a lot for letting us into the room.
- Go back to Reading room five: Space, time and contestations over demand response and infrastructure access.
Banner photo credit: Anton Maksimov Juvnsky on Unsplash