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    MCF Seminar Series: The Politics of Energy Flows in the Asia-Pacific

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    About the event:

    Long reliant on coal, Asia’s megacities are poised to accelerate their energy transition in the coming decades, with national and urban governments committing to ambitious emissions reduction targets. Meeting these, however, will require a massive buildout of renewable energy that reduces fossil fuel use while keeping pace with rapidly rising urban power demand. Energy planners are thus looking to electricity imports – whether from outside the local grid, or from another country – that are cheaper and more feasible than constructing local sources. Much of this imported electricity is generated hundreds or thousands of kilometers away in rural areas rich in renewable energy resources, tying them to cities in a mutually dependent relationship. These long-distance flows will shape both rural resource economies and urban energy transitions in the Asia Pacific in ways that have received limited scholarly attention.

    This talk investigates the political economy of these emerging energy flows, with examples drawn from Shanghai and Singapore. To do so, I developed a framework based on Magee's (2006) "powershed," defined as the material and socio-political infrastructure linking electricity supply and demand areas. This paper has two aims. The first is to determine how and why long-distance power transfers are organized and maintained by cities and the rural regions that supply them with energy. The second is to assess the role of China - the world’s largest renewable energy generator - as both a model for and driver of these new powersheds.Β 

    About the speaker:

    Tyler HarlanΒ is an Associate Professor of urban and environmental studies at Loyola Marymount University. He studies the spatial politics and socio-environmental implications of energy transition in China, and the implications of this transition for the Global South. He is a Woodrow Wilson Centre China Fellow and Fulbright China Fellow, and his research has been published inΒ The China Quarterly,Β Global Environmental ChangeΒ andΒ Annals of the American Association of Geographers. This year, he is an honorary fellow with the Melbourne University Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies until August 2024.


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