Making Energy Grids Smart. The Transition of Sociotechnical Apparatuses Towards a New Ontology

  • Dario Padovan
  • Osman ArrobbioEmail author
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


The analysis of the assemblages and the functioning of conventional energy grids is the starting point of any process of smartness. Even if smarter elements already exist in energy grids, a full transition towards smartness is still far away. To investigate the starting conditions of a claimed process towards smartness, we realized an investigation in the city of Turin exploring the socio-technical development of its district heating network. The social elements it is composed of have been the object of an empirical investigation, based on 38 interviews and 3 focus groups and aimed at depicting its features from the various perspectives of the many roles that are played in it, from the professionals of the energy utility to the end users. We use two main perspectives. The first one is to conceive energy grids as technological zones, in which metering standards, communication infrastructures, and social evaluation assemble. The second one is to conceive energy grids as apparatuses or dispositives in which asymmetric lines of power, knowledge, information, decision-making, intensity and artefacts, constitute the ontology of the grid itself. An apparatus is an assemblage or a hybrid of technical and social elements, which has the strategic function to respond to an urgency. Foucault refers to the apparatus as a device consisting of a series of parts arranged in a way so that they influence the scope. This device exerts a normative effect on its “environment” because it introduces certain dispositions. In their effectiveness, energy networks are apparatuses made of variable and disparate assemblages of natural, technical, and social elements, a continuous process fostering differences and repetitions. Based on our outcomes, we can consider thermal grids as a kind of complex system or network of agents in which energy power circulates in a way very similar to the circulation of social power.


Thermal Comfort Smart Grid Corporate Actor District Heating Final User 
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.Department of Culture, Politics and SocietyUniversity of TurinTurinItaly

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