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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


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Debate: The Charge Against Electricity - The Grid

15th March 2016, 19:00 to 20:30, Rosemary Cramp Lecture Theatre, Calman Learning Centre, Boyer, Vest, Black, Anusas

Electricity has become such a ubiquitous feature of modern life that most of us would have no idea how to manage without it. Do we blame electricity and the grid for having brought us to this state of dependency? With our current reliance on electricity for every aspect of our daily lives, if the electricity supply ran out it, would our modern existence grind to a halt? Can we hold it responsible for the disempowerment of citizens, for the entrapment of their lives within a state-sponsored grid maintained by corporations? Or does it, on the contrary, hold the potential for emancipation?

Is electricity guilty or not guilty? This event will also be available to watch through live-streaming.

4 well known anthropologists and industry leaders will debate the charge against electricity.

Mike Anusas is at the University of Strathclyde. He works in the area of Critical Design Studies which weaves through design, creativity, anthropology, humanities, social sciences and science, technology and innovation studies. With Tim Ingold he wrote the paper ‘The Charge Against Electricity’ which frames this debate CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY, Vol. 30, Issue 4, pp. 540–554, ISSN 0886-7356, online ISSN 1548-1360.

Professor Dominic Boyer is the Director of the CENHS (Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences) at Rice University, the first research center in the world specifically devoted to sponsoring human scientific research on energy and the environment.. His research focuses on the relationship between energy and political power and is currently undertaking a longterm field research project on the politics of wind power development in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Barbara Vest has been Director of Generation at Energy UK since 2012. Energy UK represents Britain’s energy industry and its members turn renewable energy sources as well as nuclear, gas and coal into electricity for over 26 million homes and every business in Britain. Barbara is a member of the Executive Council of the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies. She also serves as an elected Industry Member of the Balancing and Settlement Code Panel, Panel Sponsor of the Imbalance Settlement Group and Chair of the Joint European Stakeholder Group established by National Grid to manage the introduction of the Third Package European Network Codes.

Dr Mary Black is a Senior Asset Management Engineer at Northern Powergrid UK which is the electricity distribution network operator for Yorkshire and the Northeast of England. Mary works in the System Planning section of the System Strategy group. She carries out strategic modelling on a range of electricity network problems, with a long term specialism in network asset risk and replacement planning models; and more recently focusing on models forecasting future load for various low carbon technology take-up scenarios. She has a number of published papers from her previous research career working with i) Professor Goran Strbac modelling wind generation and storage operation in power systems; ii) Dr Andrew Brint implementing stochastic asset condition degradation models; and iii) Dr Mike Lees EA Technology Ltd building condition based asset risk management models.

This debate is part of a wider two day programme, further details can be found at

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Alternatively if you can not make it to Durham for the event - watch it through live-streaming here!

Reading to accompany the debate - a paper from Critique of Anthropology.

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