Grid Dependencies and Change Capacities: People and Demand Response Under Renewables

  • Mithra MoezziEmail author
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


Much of everyday activity in highly technologically developed societies involves electricity from a centralized grid. This is most evident during blackouts—at which point the availability of many routine forms of information, communication, light, money, and other connectors are quickly depleted. The expectation of perfect electricity has accompanied an evolution of social practices that absolutely require a working electricity system, while practices that escape that system become abandoned or antiquated. By definition, during supply shortages, societies adapt. In less-developed countries, especially those experienced with unreliable power, and with less-dense ties to the grid, there is established capacity to cope, including substituting non-electricity for electricity, and adjusting the timing of activities. In areas that expect perfect electricity, and rarely experience failures, however, reliance on electricity is higher and coping is more fragile. Drawing on social practice theories and history of technology, this chapter explores examples in the evolution of the grid dependence and develops a concept of sociotechnical resilience. Sociotechnical resilience refers to the degree to which basic activities can be decoupled from the grid, and how they do so. This resilience obviously matters in the case of blackouts and severe supply restrictions, but it also speaks to flexibility within “portfolios” of practices in terms of their synchronization with electricity supply. Demand flexibility is expected to become increasingly important in future scenarios where electricity supply has evolved to include much higher penetrations of renewables. To date, most of the debate on how this flexibility will occur has focused on “demand response,” particularly through individual end-user behaviors, and well as through isolated and largely private backup systems to provide temporary power. Focusing instead on sociotechnical resilience broadens the scope of flexibility by looking at people, technologies, and adaptation in a more connected and intricate combination. In addition to the power markets and generation capacity markets that already exist, there is thus a need to recognize, maintain, and further develop the sociotechnical capacity to do without electricity. This possibility is rarely included within the usual boundaries of debates about the renewables and the grid, or balancing supply and demand. To illustrate, the chapter provides examples from supply disruptions in both more-developed and less-developed countries, explores how policies, language, technology design, and the public sphere might better recognize and build this sociotechnical capacity.


Smart Grid Electricity Market Demand Response Demand Management Power Outage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Portland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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