Lauren Barrett

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Colorado, Boulder, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10283

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Barrett, Lauren (Colorado, Boulder, U. of) "Imagining a Sustainable and Smart Future: Innovation and Design of the Colorado Electric Grid"

Colorado now has one of the most ambitious decarbonization laws in the US, and the redesign of electrical infrastructure figures prominently in statewide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Proponents of the ‘smart grid’ see clean tech as a promising pathway to an economically viable and environmentally sound future, while some electrical engineers and politicians take a more skeptical position, citing the potential risks of automation. Meanwhile, some activists and community leaders question if ‘smart’ and ‘clean’ grid initiatives take equity concerns seriously. Using ethnographic methods of participant-observation and semi-structured interviews the study examines how ongoing and contested efforts to redesign Colorado’s grid might offer insight into state energy politics, and looks closely at the ways that scientists, activists, bureaucrats, and community members might envision the grid as a site for affecting change in the environment, energy politics, and community concerns. The proposed research seeks to advance anthropological knowledge of how people design, reconfigure, and invest in public infrastructure and digital infrastructure in order to bring about political change in general and environmental justice in particular.