Who owns our energy?
Capital doesn’t own the sun, water or the wind. But it owns the medium that is inevitable to convert the energy from natural sources into usable forms for humans. If private property rights facilitated capital’s control over the resources that are contained within the limits the planet, in the current paradigm of renewable energy, it owns the solar panels, the wind turbines, the dams, and eventually gains control on who gets how much energy. The economics of money kicks in to rationalize who can or cannot pay, and therefore deserves or does not deserve access to energy. Thus energy, despite having changed its form, from fossils to renewables, exhibit similar characteristics of ownership and by means of it, exclusion. Gramsci’s idea of hegemony maintained through manufacture of consent, facilitated by the civil society, is telling of the fact that alternative forms of energy will pursue similar interests, albeit through different means. The rare earths used to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines are no less limiting than the fossil fuels. The idea of modernity imbibes unperturbed access to energy, legitimizes the need for access over the need for use. A parallel economy, then manufactures devices that provide the means to legitimize access.
The power from the nature, provides a true opportunity for humans to be free from the limitations of the fossils, free from being controlled by a few. Yet, the few find ways to co-opt the emerging paradigm of renewable energy transition, thus maintaining similar hierarchies of economic and social relations.
Humans, then, pay for what belongs to all of them, the sun, the water, the metals that are mined to make the solar panels or the wind turbines, the labor that is endogenous, in the process eroding wealth (and control) from the masses into the hands of a few.
The idea of modernity itself needs to be reassessed if energy systems were to be designed differently. The anthropocene debate is critiqued for its generalisation of the 'human' without calibrating for the inequity in human’s ability to affect the environment. Similar critiques emerge in the context of the renewables, transition to greener fuels doesn’t by itself ensure equity. Equity in access is as much an issue with renewables as it was with fossil fuels.
Despite all, are the limited advantages that renewables offer over fossils worth fighting for? One could argue either way, but the fact remains the transition to renewables is obvious. The accomplished across the world have the platforms and the resources to make it happen. What’s important in the process though, is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. What’s important is how we do it, how we ensure equity, how we ensure the voices of the the people absent from these platforms are accounted for, how we ensure the interspecies equity is considered while we mine our way into renewables, how can we thrive as a collective rather than consume, how can the nature of the relations of power be transformed towards a more equitable world. These questions have not been asked or answered enough and it’s time we do that with a similar sense of urgency.