Local Renewable Energy Actions in the Washington D.C. Region: Political Economy, Place, Policy and Culture

Jason Morris

Advisor: Debra Lattanzi Shutika, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Paul Smith, Allison Macfarlane

Johnson Center, #240A
April 22, 2014, 09:00 AM to 07:00 AM


Over the last decade, states and localities across the United States have developed a complex and innovative collection of policies, approaches, and incentives in an effort to expand renewable energy production. The development of this collection has been strongly influenced by ‘hard path’ fossil fuel dependencies, ambivalent Federal policies, and processes of utility deregulation that began in the late 1970s. However, while neoliberal regulatory frameworks and philosophies may have become dominant in the electricity industry over the last few decades, the application of these frameworks has been diverse. This diversity reflects the uneven, particular, localized, and place-based character of contemporary renewable energy development. This dissertation offers an interdisciplinary, ethnographic examination of efforts to expand neighborhood-scale renewable electricity production in Washington, D.C. and suburban Maryland. I argue that such efforts are deeply-contested social projects conditioned by cultural values, historically contingent regulatory and governance frameworks, and conflicting political-economic goals.