Afterlives of Extraction in Morocco’s Renewable Energy Transition

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Ingraham 206
@ 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Electricity transmission infrastructure, Midelt province, Morocco (2021, photo by Karen Rignall)

Large-scale renewable energy projects enfold in uneven ways that challenge narrow conceptions of “energy justice:” how residents in marginalized zones are left with the socio-ecological burdens of producing energy while rarely receiving the benefits of that production. As Morocco assumes regional – and aspires to global – leadership in the renewable energy sector, attention to environmental justice has focused on the relative poverty of the southeastern Moroccan sites where utility-scale solar plants have gone online or are in construction. This presentation takes an expansive view of energy justice to trace the genealogy of an 800 MW solar power plant in Midelt, Morocco. For Moroccans living climate change on so many levels, renewable energy infrastructures form part of larger structures of exclusion and animate diverse claims for autonomy and redistributive justice.

Karen Rignall is a cultural anthropologist and associate professor at the University of Kentucky specializing in issues of resource access and control in North Africa and the central Appalachian region of the US. Her research examines just energy and economic transition in rural mountain zones, with a focus on agrarian change, rural politics, land rights and natural resource governance. Her book, An Elusive Common: Land, Politics, and Agrarian Rurality in a Moroccan Oasis (Cornell University Press), documents land conflict, agrarian change, and the politics of the commons in Morocco’s southeastern periphery. Dr. Rignall’s current project is an engaged research initiative comparing the social and political dynamics of copper mining and utility-scale solar energy in pre-Saharan Morocco.

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