Low-carbon Transitions and the Reconfiguration of Urban Infrastructure

Harriet Bulkeley, Vanesa Castán Broto, Anne Maassen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Over the past decade, a growing body of research has examined the role of cities in addressing climate change and the institutional and political challenges which they encounter. For the most part, in these accounts, the infrastructure networks, their material fabric, everyday practices and political economies, have remained unexamined. In this paper, it is argued that this is a critical omission and an approach is developed for understanding how urban responses to climate change both configure and are configured by infrastructure networks. Central to any such analysis is the conception of how and why (urban) infrastructure networks undergo change. Focusing on urban energy networks and on the case of London, the paper argues for an analysis of the 'urban infrastructure regimes' and 'experiments' through which climate change is governed. It is found that climate change experiments serve as a means through which dominant actors articulate and test new 'low-carbon' logics for urban infrastructure development. It is argued that experiments work by establishing new circuits, configuring actors in new sets of relations and through these means realising the potential for addressing climate change in the city. At the same time, experiments become sites of conflict, a means through which new forms of urban circulation can be confined and marginalised, leaving dominant energy regimes (relatively) intact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1471-1486
Number of pages16
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • climate change
  • energy
  • experiment
  • infrastructure
  • socio-technical system
  • urban governance


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