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Smart Grids and Smart Markets: the Promises and Politics of Intelligent Infrastructures

Thinking Infrastructures

ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0, eISBN: 978-1-78769-557-3

Publication date: 7 August 2019


The chapter analyses the role of smart grid technology in the German energy transition. Information technologies promise to help integrate volatile renewable energies (wind and solar power) into the grid. Yet, the promise of intelligent infrastructures does not only extend to technological infrastructures, but also to market infrastructures. Smart grid technologies underpin and foster the design of a “smart” electricity market, where dispersed energy prosumers can adapt, in real time, to fluctuating price signals that register changes in electricity generation. This could neutralize fluctuations resulting from the increased share of renewables. To critically “think” the promise of smart infrastructure, it is not enough to just focus on digital devices. Rather, it becomes necessary to scrutinize economic assumptions about the “intelligence” of markets and the technopolitics of electricity market design. This chapter will first show the historical trajectory of the technopolitical promise of renewable energy as not only a more sustainable, but also a more democratic alternative to fossil and nuclear power, by looking at the affinities between market liberal and ecological critiques of centralized fossil and nuclear based energy systems. It will then elucidate the co-construction of smart grids and smart markets in the governmental plans for an “electricity market 2.0.” Finally, the chapter will show how smart grid and smart metering technology fosters new forms of economic agency like the domo oeconomicus. Such an economic formatting of smart grid technology, however, forecloses other ecologically prudent and politically progressive ways of constructing and engaging with intelligent infrastructures.



Folkers, A. (2019), "Smart Grids and Smart Markets: the Promises and Politics of Intelligent Infrastructures", Kornberger, M., Bowker, G.C., Elyachar, J., Mennicken, A., Miller, P., Nucho, J.R. and Pollock, N. (Ed.) Thinking Infrastructures (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 62), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 255-272.



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