Accepted paper:

Environmental governance of energy in New Caledonia


Peter Lindenmann (University of Basel)

Paper short abstract:

In New Caledonia governance arrangements concerning the consumption of energy have to be constantly renegotiated in this period of rising prices. Rural people in this French overseas territory find themselves at the very end of the supply chain and have to use their agency to find creative solutions addressing the question of paying for energy, of access to services as well as of maintaining or gaining an entry into the contemporary digital lifestyle.

Paper long abstract:

My paper proposes to look at the renegotiations of governance arrangements regarding energy consumption in New Caledonia. In this French Overseas territory energy prices are indeed very high and they are still rising. Many people have difficulties paying for energy and get into trouble if for example the electricity bill is higher than expected. Meanwhile utility companies introduce pre-paid cards to improve payment, customers block the local airline to complain about rising airfares, wind-farms go bankrupt and islanders revert to wood for cooking instead of gas. In New Caledonia especially people in the rural areas find themselves at the very end of the supply chain and often cannot chose between different providers as can city dwellers. But even they have agency and can engage negotiations on the how their provision in energy is governed. They use their limited space of action to maintain liveable conditions and retain or gain access to assets of modernity for which energy is a necessary condition. Without being able to pay for energy in form of cooking gas, car fuel and electricity a contemporary lifestyle is impossible and rural people are thus forced to engage, create and innovate in order to try to keep pace with a world more and more shaped by electronic devices, digital communications and access to information. With the energy transition fully underway, people have to constantly renegotiate governance arrangements concerning energy consumption. Prices for energy in all form are openly debated, rises contested and strategies developed to engage rising prices by less costly alternatives.

panel W050
Uncertain futures: the cultural dynamics of energy transition