Reference : Sustainable Regional Development through Energetic Regionlaisations
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Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Human geography & demography
Sustainable Regional Development through Energetic Regionlaisations
Faller, Fabian mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
4th International PhD course on Economic Geography
Ron Boschma, Björn Asheim, Anders Malmberg
The Netherlands
[en] The goal of my research project is to analyse processes of (re)productions of regions within the biogas sector and illustrate different development paths. The case study is located in the border area of Luxembourg and Germany.

The application of renewable energies in decentralised ways is considered being the ultimate chance for a long lasting prosperous and environmentally sound regional development, since they trigger various positive effects (e. g. regional value added, less power loss, lower susceptibility to discrepancies, substitution of energy imports, job creation etc.). To effectively and efficiently implement decentralised renewables, such as bioenergy, photovoltaics or wind power, the interaction and collaboration of various regional and sub-/supra-regional actors is necessary. They all – at least slightly - differ in their perspectives on challenges for energy supply as well as on the region itself. Hence, questions of space and scale arise: If the transition to renewable energies can be achieved by a decentralised utilisation, where does this take place, what is the region for implementing them? Or vice versa – my core research question:

Which processes of regionalisations are initiated through the utilisation of renewable energies, especially biogas production?

To address this question, I apply a multi-theory and multi-method approach. In theoretic terms, I put on two “glasses”.

On the one hand, I analyse institutional and structural conditions that frame processes of regionalisations in the biogas economy and how these conditions relate to socio-technical developments. My theoretical approach is based on evolutionary institutionalism and socio-technical transition studies. Therefor, industrial networks and strategic games, techno-scientific knowledge, cultural and symbolic meanings, sectorial policies, as well as markets and user practices are important elements of analysis. It is important to be aware of the dynamic dimension of frameworks (development and change / evolution), the concurrence of political, social, economic and technical processes, the long lasting transformations, and the spatial differences (context) (cf. Boschma/Frenken, 2006; Glückler, 2007; Hayter, 2004; Jones/Murphy, 2010; Truffer, 2008) – that are typical not only for decentralised technologies. My focuses of investigation from this perspective are threefold. First, I explore the legal framework, contractual agreements and association/group structures that relate to biogas production. Second, I study the political, social, and economic developments in the biogas sector and their effects on technological developments. And third, I analyse the alignments of institutional structures and individual decision making with new biogas technologies. I apply a retrospective perspective, looking back at the period from the mid-1990s (liberalisation of EU energy market, upcoming of bioenergy) till today.

On the other hand, I shift the focus to economic practices and everyday actions of actors in the biogas economy (e.g. operators, investors). The main goals are to analyse the economic utilisation of spatial categories and contexts, and to uncover the relationship of economy, action and spatial references. In which ways do everyday actions constitute, reproduce and transform scale and space metaphors („regions“)? Which action responses do they trigger? Which external regionalisations influence the actors’ decisions – regionalisations “done” by non-economic actors (e.g. planners, politicians, NGOs, media)? How do biogas producers perceive external regionalisations? I focus on processes of constitution and reproduction of different types of energy regions and the modes and patterns, in which practices influence the processes of regionalisations – following Benno Werlen’s theory of everyday regionalisations (Werlen, 1999; 2007; 2010).

In terms of methodology I am currently using two different concepts. Since I apply, on the one hand, an action oriented approach to regionalisations, I conduct interviews with actors in the biogas economy to investigate elements such as perceptions, performances, patterns, power relations, or intensions. I will set these elements in the context of scale and space metaphors: doings and sayings with spatial references or connotations – whether explicit or implicit. On the other hand I apply document analysis for extracting different “regions” that are expressed, for example, in strategy papers, business reports, official statements, laws, directives, planning documents, or media coverage. I will, in another step, confront experts with the findings from the second data source to examine, how they – if at all – perceive them and how they incorporate them into their practices.

The findings and theoretical thoughts shall lead to a better understanding of processes of regionalisations and different concepts or connotations of the region, for theoretical purposes as well as to inform policy making. Furthermore, I aim at enriching or even opening the floor for two discussions. At the one hand, how theories of economic practice might enrich evolutionary approaches to understand economic processes. At the other hand – and in the context of a energy / bioenergy debate – how a new perspective on the relations between economy and environment can help us to conceptualise an Environmental Economic Geography that takes Economic/Corporate Greening, Environmental Governance, Facets of North-South-Relations and other Greening Contexts serious.

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