The use of solar photovoltaic (PV) power is booming in East Africa. Once a rare, novel power source used by elites, over the past ten years the technology has become a ubiquitous feature of the East African landscape and is regularly used by poorer households, even in remote, rural locations. In this presentation, using two case studies from northern Uganda, I critically examine what are the implications of this rapid energy change. First, I draw on the notion of ‘bricolage’ –defined as making creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand– to rethink what energy poverty looks like in Africa. Using the example of Gulu Town, I argue against framings that view energy poverty in quantitative statistical terms, instead suggesting that it is best understood as a qualitative set of relations mediated by a range of technological infrastructures, political economic dynamics and social processes. Second, drawing on a case study of a small village in northern Uganda, I provide a examination of the social dimensions of this energy transition. Drawing on interviews and observation data, I show how new photovoltaic technologies has helped to create opportunities as well as problems that are challenging and changing the rhythms of rural life. Specifically, I focus on the politics and power dynamics that surround the geography of PV electricity access, and how new energy poverty and energy justice challenges have emerged in the context of Africa’s photovoltaic turn.
Period11 Nov 2019
Visiting fromUniversity of New South Wales (Australia)
Visitor degreeAssociate Professor