Urban Energy Democracy: Investigating the Historical-Geographies of Atlanta’s Electricity Politics

This talk considers how the historical-geographical emergence and evolution of Atlanta’s urban electricity networks influences contemporary energy democracy organizing. In 2017, Atlanta became the first major city in the U.S. South to adopt a 100% clean energy target to supply all electricity from renewable sources by 2035. Atlanta’s then-Mayor grounded this move in the long history of Atlantans’ fight for freedom and a contemporary imperative to address racialized socio-economic inequality. Atlanta has among the highest median energy burdens in the U.S. and the city’s plan outlined a strategy to address energy affordability and efficiency while creating jobs. However, this comprehensive energy and social program stalled. Through archival research, I trace the historical conjunctures through which the regulatory compact between the state regulator and electric utility took hold and how these legal and institutional relationships effect the city’s ambitions today. In Atlanta, where electricity is provided by a traditionally regulated monopoly utility, I investigate the strategies that advocates employ to seek representation and participate in regulation in the interest of energy justice.

Dr. Nikki Luke is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Sustainability at the University of Tennessee. She is an urban geographer and studies energy, labor, and social reproduction in the U.S. South. Nikki is currently working on a book about the politics of energy transition in Atlanta, Georgia and a collaborative research project investigating just transitions for workers and energy vulnerable communities in South Carolina and Tennessee. Her research has been published in American Quarterly, the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Antipode, and Social and Cultural Geography. She previously worked with the Labor Center Green Economy Program at the University of California, Berkeley and has received support for her research from the National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the US-UK Fulbright Commission.

Friday, October 7, 2022
10:30am – 11:50am PST
Nikki Luke, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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