Beyond Net-Zero

Small Group Project 2023-24

Beyond Net-Zero: Assessing and Extending Social and Environmental Understandings of Wind Power

Small Group Project 2023-24

Net-Zero commitments for reducing carbon dioxide emissions have placed renewable energy at the forefront of policy agendas. Wind energy has taken centre stage within national energy strategies. The social and ecological impacts of its global production, however, are missing from debates over its efficacy. Adopting a multi-disciplinary and multi-sited approach, this project examines the material, socio-economic and ethical practices that constitute wind energy, and interrogates them for their spatially disparate impacts on the places and populations that are integral to its production. Specifically, this project traces the metals – copper, steel, rare earths – and materials (i.e. concrete) that comprise the materiality of wind turbines, as well as the financial actors and institutions that invest in and profit from Net-Zero, in order to make the largely obscured spaces and relations of wind energy legible.

Comprised of economic geographer, anthropologist and geologist, the interdisciplinary team has organised the project into two interrelated work packages. The first focuses on ‘following’ the material components of wind turbines to their sites of production and extraction, and simultaneously tracing the circuits of finance and assets that enable their manufacture and assembly. The second focuses on ‘key person’ interviews with actors across the industries and sectors within the provision of wind power, including manufacture and finance, national energy grids, materials production, mining and extraction, policy makers, and third-sector (e.g. NGOs).

By bridging the gap between siloed debates associated with natural resource extraction and mining, energy transitions, and economic geographies and anthropologies of finance, this project contributes to multiple disciplines across social science. Moreover, it will inform political debate over the probable impacts, and unintended consequences, that the implementation of Net-Zero agendas from within Minority World countries (i.e. ‘Global North’) will have on the social-economic and ecological well-being of the Majority World (i.e. ‘Global South’).

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at