Addressing the apparent tensions between modernity and sustainability in Southeast Asia, this book offers novel insights into the global challenge of moving towards a low carbon energy system. With an original and accessible take on social theory related to energy transitions, modernity and sustainability, Mattijs Smits argues for a reinvigorated geography of energy. He also challenges universalistic and linear assumptions about energy transitions and makes the case for ’energy trajectories’, stressing embeddedness, contingency and connections between scales. Contemporary and historical empirical examples from Southeast Asia, primarily Thailand and Laos, are drawn upon to show the importance of scale at regional, national, local and household levels. The transitions in the national power sectors here have been intimately related to discourses of modernity and state formation since the colonial era. More recently, plans for international cooperation and discourses of regional power trade have taken centre stage. Local energy trajectories are understood to be part of these transitions, but also as embedded in local social, political and spatial relations. Examining how energy practices go hand-in-hand with the dissemination of different technologies, this work shows the complexities of achieving sustainability in the context of rapidly changing energy modernities in Southeast Asia.
'Very interesting, worth reading for its synthetic conceptual take on energy transitions, worth reading again for the rich, comparative case studies.'
Benjamin K. Sovacool, Aarhus University, Denmark
'Expanding access to modern energy services like electricity can transform individual livelihoods and national development trajectories. Mattijs Smits' creative and agile account documents the differentiated outcomes of this process of energy transition in the Greater Mekong region. Combining analysis at national, village and household scales - and encompassing technologies from domestic cooking appliances to large hydro-electric dams - this book provides a compelling case for understanding how energy systems and regional political economies evolve together. In short, its account of multiple energy modernities in Laos and Thailand demonstrates what critical geographies of energy transition have to offer.'
Gavin Bridge, Durham University, UK
"This is a valuable text on energy development challenges in Thailand and Laos and is useful beyond the case studies in that theory informs the analysis, and the considerations here affect many places, not only in Southeast Asia but around the globe. The work by Smits on these cases provides lucidity in a complex policy environment, and the writing is absorbing."
Christopher Atkinson, International Journal of Public Administration
Contents: Foreword, Philip Hirsch; Preface; Energy, modernity and sustainability in Southeast Asia; Energy transitions, modernity and sustainability; Regional and national energy transitions in Southeast Asia; Local energy transitions? The case for energy trajectories; Energy and modernity in everyday life; Towards a critical geography of energy transitions; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.