The energy co-provision in Italy: an irreducible technological asymmetry?
Human Sciences University of Trieste Trieste, Italy
The chances to develop a more sustainable use of energy are limited by the great dependence on fossil sources and on industrial system of provision organised around them. A way to reduce such dependence is seen in the development of local sources of energy. "Local", in this case, indicates many things: the capacity to increase the energy self-sufficiency of territorial communities; the decentralisation of provision system management; the active involvement of each consumption unit (companies as well households) into the provision. The different forms of energy localism need a precise technological mediation.
Solar, photovoltaic, biomass, Aeolian sources are technological packages that are deeply interconnected with social and cultural factors. Since their conception (invention) up to their final application such packages go through institutional channels, socially constructed. In order to understand the chances of local energy organisations we must discover and interpret such channels. They are values, norms, habits, circuits of action which intervene in every step of energy provision.
The theoretical tools are researched in the literature on practices (Spaargaren), social construction of technology (Bijker), neo-institutional approaches (Biggart). In such views, energy technologies are a sort of instrument of communication, an art of creating social fields, where actors search and sometimes find sense. The empirical field are Italian cases where consumers and energy utilities cooperate at different level and in different forms. So-called co-provision is an emblematic example. In such case, knowledge, practices and relational capabilities of energy users and providers are reshuffled.