I used the political ecology approach to assess the importance of, and relationships between, political economy, social and community structures, local historical backgrounds and the use of natural resources. The approach provides a useful framework for evaluating rural renewable energy projects, focusing on institutions (such as common property resources), markets, local response to development interventions and to the material effects of development on the physical environment
(for example, water, soil, and carbon).
Political ecology studies of Latin America are mostly related to the relationship between poverty
and environmental degradation: poverty and conservation efforts in protected areas, development, land degradation, wildlife and livelihoods, land use change, land use and food security, shrimp mariculture and fisheries, and irrigation and water resources. The energy sector has also been an area of study for political ecology and political economy, including the use of wood fuel, the wind turbine industry and U.S. energy policy
; however, other RE systems haven’t been analysed. The existence and type of local governance structures, the level of poverty, and population displacement due to civil wars are among the considerations important to the ‘surrounding causes, experiences, and management of environmental problems’ (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987) that will contribute to the debate around mainstreaming development with climate change mitigation
Key ways that political ecology influences research design are through the attention to material carbon reductions, climate impacts
, renewable energy in the structures of markets and policies and their and responses to changes.
Common Property Resources (CPR) were analyzed as an institution under political ecology, since all the development projects evaluated were community owned. I also used the Pressure and Release (PAR) model for the analysis of renewable energy systems meeting climate change adaptation
Research on CPR has covered topics surrounding natural resources and their uses, including aquaculture, trade, forestry, neoliberalism, ecotourism and coastal livelihoods. Energy use, including renewable energy, has also been studied through a CPR approach, mainly focusing on the optimal use of finite sources.
Ostrom designed principles to determine the failure or success of CPR. As part of the research design, I analysed whether the ‘design principles for common property resources’ identified by Ostrom (2002) also apply to community-owned renewable energy systems (Table 11.1).
CPR appears as a major set of institutions for managing resources. However, agency (actions of individuals) does influence CPR’s when the CPR rules are changed by the people/community. Political ecology has had very few studies of renewable energy in relation to climate governance, local communities and the actions of individuals (agency). Figure 11.1 shows the relationship between CPR and PE.
Based on Political Ecology and CPR, I would expect that the success of projects would be explained by:
Political and economic structures that secure property rights; access to resources; equitable benefits; communal ownership and local management of the renewable energy system; taking into account the role and impact
of local institutions and the influence of government and foreign and international donor agencies.
The agency of individuals in a community and project managers who seek the success of a project and work towards it.
Constraints and opportunities afforded by the physical environment
, historical background, and cultural and religious diversity.
Relationship with Ostrom’s rules for successful CPR management, and defined rules, sanctions and incentives.
for potential for adaptive capacity and adaptation
to climate hazards was carried out using the Pressure And Release (PAR) model. The PAR model, and for this research using a political ecology lens, examines the relationships between political and economic structures, the physical environment
, and communities, to understand ‘processes that generate vulnerability’ (Wisner and Blaikie 2004) and explain differences in exposure, impacts and ability to cope with previous or future hazards (Eakin and Luers 2006).
The PAR Model explains disasters as the ‘intersection of the natural hazard and the processes that generate vulnerability’ (Wisner and Blaikie 2004; Blaikie and Brookfield 1987; Birkmann 2006). These processes, explained in part by political ecology, are categorized as root causes, dynamic pressures and unsafe conditions, as shown in Fig. 11.2, and are based on physical, political, economic and social environments and variables.
For this research, the analysis included the role of DRE systems in improving the dynamic pressures and unsafe conditions that decrease vulnerability as well as how DRE systems can be more robust in order to decrease t impact
of the hazards on them, and reducing the overall risk of the disaster.