Lusatia and the coal conundrum: The lived experience of the German Energiewende

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Journal Article
Energy Policy, 2016, 99 pp. 277 - 287
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© 2016 Elsevier Ltd The German Energiewende, or energy transition, is an ambitious suite of policy measures which aim to decarbonize the German economy and achieve an almost complete transition to an energy system based on renewable energy by mid-century. This article contends that the energy transition is also a social process. We develop a provisional local ethnography of the Energiewende, an account of the lived experience of this social process from the perspective of villagers in Atterwasch, Kerkwitz and Grabko, in the region of Lusatia in Eastern Germany. Their experiences are particularly salient, since their villages are facing demolition to make way for the expansion of the nearby Jänschwalde coal mine. The villagers’ struggle to defend their homes highlights a fundamental contradiction in the energy transition, sometimes referred to as the “coal conundrum”. The contest over the future of coal in Lusatia can be seen as a struggle to control key cultural ‘scripts’ or narratives, of home, belonging, ecological modernization, climate change, and democratic deficit. Our research suggests that any resolution of the coal conundrum, and effective implementation of the Energiewende, must be informed by an understanding of these scripts, and how they underpin the motivations and mentalities of different social actors.
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