known in New York for their fragility and meeting a growing demand that increasingly favors peaks. 10
The Micro-Grid Initiative, created in 2012 by the Smart Grid Consortium, made it possible to conduct a study aiming at itemizing the micro-networks in the state of New York. A project tender was also launched in 2015 – the New York Prize – to favor the development of micro-networks in zones considered priority because they periodically have problems.
The private micro-network: a new tool of urban capitalism
Marked by the liberalization of the energy market in
The energy autonomy project defies a century-old system: that of the industrial model of large networks which, on the scale of cities or vast territories, comprised the dominant production mode of many utilities – water, sewage, energy – marginalizing decentralized solutions. Today, with the energy transition a vital issue, this unified large technical system is tottering. A new imaginary dimension of the infrastructure is being built within which the world of architecture has taken hold of the energy question, imagining autonomous inhabitable machines, self-sufficient cities, eco-infrastructures and micro-grids. Right from the beginning, these disconnection protagonists have fueled two ambitions: being emancipated from the hold of the large infrastructures and, through a utilities system incorporated into buildings, guaranteeing minimum comfort in water, electricity and heating. Among the figureheads are forgotten personalities and others who are famous, such as John Adolphus Etzler with his autonomous mechanical system of 1841, and Thomas Edison and his electrically autonomous house of 1912. The energy autonomy movement, however, did not reach maturity internationally until after the 1973 oil crisis. Propelled by American counterculture, autonomy spread geographically and became institutionalized, moving from the housing unit to the city and the territory. Alexander Pike’s autonomous house or Jeanne-Marie and Georges Alexandroff’s self-sufficient city attest to the power of this trend, which combined technical virtuosity and the economic, political, social and environmental project. All of them heralded today’s discussions, which this work sheds light on through its historical approach.
-existing or rival decentralized models.
Today, the rising demand for an energy transition and the resulting panoply of alternative models (energy living machines, self-sufficient cities, micro-grids and other eco-infrastructures) are tangible signs of the deconstruction of what historians of technology call the “large technical system.” 4
Architects’ enthusiasm for energy issues has spawned a new imaginary repertory of infrastructural systems. Energy autonomy, however, is a technological utopia that has inspired architectural and urban projects for over a century
action more concrete. This impetus notably took the form of the creation of eco-districts, initially in northern European cities, whose progress in this domain no longer needs to be demonstrated. These districts are the now celebrated BedZED in England, Vauban in Germany, Hammarby, Björkhagen and Västra Hamnen in Sweden, EVA Lanxmeer in the Netherlands, Ørestad in Denmark and the Austrian districts of Voralberg and Güssing.
Today, there is a consensus in favor of hybrid systems of extensive networks and more localized forms of self-sufficiency or micro-grids. Rather
From an ‘infrastructural turn’ to the platform logics of
Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos
), hardly the most radical voice, condemned attempts to fund a standard power plant and grid system in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake which wasted US$30 million or more through failing to understand a context of weak state structures and poor private-sector capacity, resulting in ‘misjudged demand, stalled reforms and deficient oversight’ (USAID, 2018 ).
Set against such high-profile failures, the Rockefeller Foundation advocates for local community-based solutions and ownership of small-scale micro-grids, recognising the challenges and
safer, cleaner and more convenient than either
kerosene lanterns or automotive batteries, which are widely used in developing
countries for lighting and small appliances (Cabral et al. 1996). Likewise, the use
of micro-grid diesel generators is largely considered unworkable due to the dearth
of spare parts in rural areas and the cost of transporting fuel (Lovejoy 1992).
The World Bank and other agencies generally regard SHS as the least costly
alternative to conventional grid extension for remote rural electrification (Martinot
et al. 2002). Decentralised home systems