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Cultures of Energy

Cultures of Energy brings writers, artists and scholars together to talk, think and feel their way into the Anthropocene. We cover serious issues like climate change, species extinction and energy transition. But we also try to confront seemingly huge and insurmountable problems with insight, creativity and laughter. We believe in the possibility of personal and cultural change. And we believe that the arts and humanities can help guide us toward a more sustainable future. Cultures of Energy is sponsored by Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS, pronounced ‘sense’). Join the conversation on Twitter @cenhs and on the web at culturesofenergy.com
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Aug 5, 2016

Cymene and Dominic test out the identity of “semi-professional podcasters” by reeling off impressive sounding words like “load-shedding” and “blackout” and then (10:21) we welcome University of Washington political scientist Sunila Kale to the podcast. She indulges our twin fascinations with electricity and India by discussing her landmark book—wait for it—Electrifying India (Stanford, 2014). We discuss the colonial legacies that shaped the making of India’s power system and also the important regional differences that explain why in some states in India only 30% of homes have reliable access to electricity. We discuss the differential experiences of grid in India and how the middle-classes have adapted to an unstable electricity supply with inverters and generators. We touch on why the recent flood of international green energy investment has not been able to successfully address the complex social and political questions around electricity distribution. Indeed, Sunila’s new collaborative research focuses on how India is coping with a growing abundance of expensive green electricity, innovations in demand side management and a new political emphasis on increasing competition in the electricity market. We talk about Akhil Gupta’s argument that countries like India cannot repeat the mistakes made by the Global North as they increase their electricity usage and Sunila points out that India is already diverging from the northern model in terms of the supplementation of grid by batteries and rooftop solar. Sunila finally debunks the argument that more coal-powered electricity will be vital for India’s future social and economic development. What will it take to make energy a civil rights issue in India? Listen on!

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