Authors: Jude L Fernando
Abstract: Carbon-free sustainable development is a reachable goal only if it is guided by concurrent and mutually reinforcing ‘technological’ and ‘systemic’ innovations. Without such innovations, current renewable energy-centered sustainable security policies will only undermine their own goals and reproduce the very issues they seek to address when they are operationalized within the hegemonic parameters of the neoliberal economy. Renewable-energy applications are fast evolving as promising sites for neoliberalism to resolves it’s crises of accumulation and legitimization. The environment-human relationships in these sites reproduce hierarchies of power, as well as social and environmental injustices that are typically associated with non-renewable energy, thereby subverting the broader goals of sustainable development. The renewable-energy systems continue to blur the boundary between producers and consumers of energy. These systems will fail to produce environmentally and socially sustainable consumption and production of energy-vital aspects of sustainable energy security- if they are driven by values embodied in neo-liberal rationality. Framing of the renewable-energy systems in the language of energy ‘democracy’, ‘localism’ and ‘sustainability’, desensitize the society to the dangers of these movements producing consequences that would be far worse than those resulted from non-renewable energy systems. Such a predicament demonstrates the remarkable creativity and power of neoliberalism to displace and distract its antagonists and reproduce itself by appropriating the language and practices of those same antagonists. Sustainable energy security is not merely a matter of decarbonation through transition from non-renewable to renewable, rather it entails grounding energy production and consumption in social, economic, and political relations that would simultaneously liberate human-nature relationships from the neoliberal hegemony and situate them in a world order driven by values of social and environmental equality, justice, and democracy. Based on a comparative analysis of solar-energy models in the United States, this paper problematizes the transition from non-renewable to renewable from the point of view of social and environmental justice. It also demonstrates how renewable-energy models that draw their intellectual inspiration from evolving “de-growth” and “solidarity” economics paradigms could provide promising pathways to disrupt neoliberal hegemony and decolonize and reconfigure the agentic and systemic aspects' of the current energy economy. At the core of these paradigms is the effort to decouple the current production and consumption of energy from neoliberal growth model and situate them in alternative models driven by ecologically and socially sustainable values. Another hoped-for outcome of these new paradigms is the concurrent reduction of the world’s dependence on inexhaustible energy supplies as well as building solidarity necessary to find effective responses to the energy-related social and environmental issues of the today’s world.