Distributing Power: A Cratological Study of Emerging Technologies for Electric Power Supply
PhD thesis, School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies, University of East London, 2010.
Supervisors: Professor Jeremy Gilbert, Dr. Steve Goodman. Internal Examiner: Dr. Tony D. Sampson. External Examiner: Professor Philip Brey (University of Twente).
This thesis has two main objectives. First, to develop a philosophical and theoretical framework for a cratological (from the Greek kratos: power) study of technology, i.e. one that explains and evaluates how certain technologies afford states or changes in the structure of power of the social systems in which they are embedded. The normative principle proposed is the ideal of equality of power. The second objective is to deploy these frameworks in an analysis of the technological and industrial development of systems for electric power supply. Driven by a quest to achieve greater economies of scale, the technological development of the industry during the 20th century emphasised constant increments in output scale and a model of centralised supply. Along with this process came a configuration and consolidation of the industry around a highly concentrated or monopolistic structure. In these conditions, utilities and other power companies acquired control over a key social resource, namely electric energy, and a concomitant share of social power. Since the 1980s, but particularly in the last decade, technological innovations are opening the possibility of a radical transformation in the industrial structure of power supply systems around the paradigm of distributed energy resources. Along with important technical, economic and ecological benefits, this new paradigm may afford a positive, from our cratological perspective, transformation: namely a shifting of control over the electricity supply system towards communities, small and independent generators, and a new breed of energy prosumers. All of these may find themselves newly empowered by the emerging technological paradigm, in a way that is similar to what is also becoming possible in the communications industry thanks to the development of the Internet.
In full here.