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date: 26 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Electricity infrastructure provides a substrate for modern life through the network of wires, towers, dams, and turbines that literally powers our economic and social practices. Despite its importance, electricity infrastructure is often depoliticized, left to the technical experts and relegated to a solely technical matter of “keeping the lights on” (Kuzemko 2016; Geels 2014). This chapter provides a technical overview of the key elements of an electricity system: demand, generation, transmission, and distribution. It also identifies three important trends and their associated impacts for social scientists: urbanization and future increases in electricity demand, the rise of renewable power generation as a proportion of the energy mix, and a shift to increased grid flexibility and distributed infrastructures. The social implications focus attention on how these trends reflexively interact with issues of justice, political power and mobilization, political economy, and institutional design.

Keywords: electricity infrastructure, energy politics, local electricity, electricity demand, power grid

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