Power outlets? Where appliances meet infrastructures


A blog on the DEMAND Centre website looks at the meeting points between appliances and infrastructures and the complex political struggles taking place there.

Kris de Decker, of the DEMAND Centre and LowTech Magazine looks at where we draw the line between infrastructures (largely provided by the state) and appliances (generally private property). The article looks at a number of scenarios including electric cars, smart meters and district heating, where the nature of the interface between individuals and infrastructures is underpinned by all manner of socio-economic wrangling.

In the case of electric cars a number of models are being offered by companies around access to chargers and charging points. Some companies sell the car, charger and charging point installation as part of a package, whereas others sell only the car and leave the customer to arrange for charging points and equipment at their homes.

The relative novelty of electric cars allows us to see this complicated, multifaceted debate at the boundaries between state, manufacturer and consumer roles in carrying out daily practices (in this case driving) that falls squarely within the territory of the DEMAND Centre’s research. As De Decker points out, the struggle over who ‘owns’ the wall box for charging electric vehicles at home ‘will, to some degree, shape the future of electric vehicles’.

The article goes on to point out similar infrastructure versus appliance battles in the world of smart meters, in-home displays and district heating in Belgrade. The outcomes of these tussles could have big implications on the amount of control the consumer, the state and private companies will have over energy demand in future and in what combinations.

The piece draws some material from a forthcoming book entitled ‘Infrastructures in practice: the evolution of demand in networked societies’ edited by Professors Elizabeth Shove and Frank Trentmann.

Read the full article here: http://www.demand.ac.uk/16/10/2017/where-infrastructures-and-appliances-meet/

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