What is 'local' about Smart Local Energy Systems? Emerging stakeholder geographies of decentralised energy in the United Kingdom

Chad Walker, Patrick Devine-Wright, Melanie Rohse, Luke Gooding, Hannah Devine-Wright, Rajat Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


As governments worldwide address the climate crisis, energy systems are becoming both decarbonised and decentralised. In this study, we aim to increase understanding of the spatial dimensions of new forms of decentralised energy systems that integrate electricity, storage, transportation, and heating. Drawing on workshops and secondary data from three, early-stage case studies funded under a UK government programme, we examine how stakeholders responsible for development construct the 'local' in Smart Local Energy System (SLES) demonstrators. We employ three analytical concepts to address this aim: emplacement, place-framing, and place/boundary-making. In terms of emplacement, stakeholders use place-based narratives that draw on distinctive infrastructural, social, ecological, and political characteristics to argue that diverse locations (Oxford city, Oxfordshire, and the Orkney Islands) are 'suitable' places for decentralised energy. Stakeholders frame projects around non-local goals of creating technological and business models for replication across the UK and worldwide, even if some community-centred benefits are recognized. Lastly, our findings on place-making show pragmatism in flexing 'local' boundaries in order to align with project objectives. The three analytical concepts provide a useful framework to uncover ‘local’ complexities of early-stage decentralised energy projects, and emphasise intersections of space, place, and justice that deserve further scrutiny, notably in later stages of project implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102182
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date29 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2021


  • decentralised energy
  • emplacement
  • geography of religion
  • place framing
  • place/boundary-making
  • smart local energy systems (SLES)


Dive into the research topics of 'What is 'local' about Smart Local Energy Systems? Emerging stakeholder geographies of decentralised energy in the United Kingdom'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this