Providing security in a smart-gridded environment during blackouts of different scales.

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Geography


Society's functioning is highly dependent on a steady flow of energy
via regional and national electricity grids, operating as infrastructural
life-support-systems. Increasingly, electricity grids are being
reconfigured through the addition of information technologies and
capabilities, resulting in digitally enabled forms of infrastructure
known as the smart grid (cf. Colak et al. 2015, Gangale et al. 2017).
This collaborative research with the German Federal Agency for
Technical Relief examines the implications of the coming together of
digital technologies and (energy) infrastructures for how
catastrophic failure is conceptualised and governed. Using blackouts
as an empirical device, the research asks whether/how the smart grid
implies a transformation in how security, risk and resilience are
conceptualized, and how in the resulting digital-socio-technical
configuration, infrastructural breakdown is governed. The research
is embedded within on-going geographical debates on forms of
securitising life and the governing of emergencies.
The on-going rollout of the smartgrid, enabling a two-way flow of
electricity and information, promises enhanced efficiency, stability
and resilience-arguably rendering blackouts less probable. Yet,
there is a lack of analysis of how digital capabilities affect the risk of
catastrophic failure. The research draws on recent geographical
debates around governing emergencies (c.f. Anderson, 2010). It
examines how different stakeholders prepare for electricity
disruption, and what their underlying logics are from preparation to
response (Anderson & Adey 2012). Conceptually, it uses
Foucauldian notions of biopolitics to unpack the relationship
between catastrophic failure and the securitization of life and death
(c.f. Collier 2008), supplemented with recent work on the practices
and techniques through which emergencies are governed.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2214134 Studentship ES/P000762/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Leonard Schliesser