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Durham e-Theses
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Smart Grids in the City: Splintering Urbanism in a Smart Urban Future

MCLEAN, ANTHONY,JOHN (2013) Smart Grids in the City: Splintering Urbanism in a Smart Urban Future. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines how the emergence of smart grids is changing urban development practices and shifting the power relations between the government, private industry and end consumers. The research was undertaken as part of the Customer Led Network Revolution – a UK smart grid research project investigating a shift towards a low carbon economy. This thesis is just one outcome of the project and examines the ways in which smart grids are being produced internationally across a variety of different contexts, conducted with qualitative research with the aim to understand the implications for public responses to new energy technologies. The study first surveyed the development of smart grids projects internationally before selecting the case of the Pecan Street Project in Austin, Texas, to examine the drivers and barriers to the development of smart grids in detail. Drawing on the concepts of splintering urbanism and using the literature of large technical systems, the thesis argues that there are three critical dynamics to the emergence of the smart grid in Austin – the energy discourse that allows a smart grid to emerge; state backing of the project for economic development purposes; and changes in urban planning structures to facilitate smart growth. This study suggests that the growth of smart grids can be tailored to benefit a wide variety of stakeholders, but could “splinter” urban environments with potential risks for rising inequality. The research offers a valuable contribution to how smart grids can be produced in the UK and how they should be managed.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Sep 2013 10:36

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