Socio-metabolic profiles of electricity consumption along the rural–urban continuum of Ecuador: Whose energy sovereignty?

Pere Ariza-Montobbio, Susana Herrero Olarte


Integrating energy and land use planning for sustainable and resilient human settlements requires a Post-Normal science perspective where actors’ views are an essential part of the quality of energy policies assessments. Through qualitative content analysis of interviews to diverse actors in Ecuador, we found two broad contrasting narratives on Energy Sovereignty: a “Hard” and a “Soft” path. By using multivariatestatistical analysis of sociodemographic, land use and electricity consumption variables, we derived a typology of parishes with distinct socio-metabolic profiles along the “rural–urban” continuum of Ecuador. Four different types and eight subtypes of parishes spatially organize by processes of suburbanization, functional urban specialization and “new ruralities” or “rural multifunctionality”. Urban centers tend to specialize in service and industrial sectors while suburban and intermediate cities, remote rural areas, and dynamic towns tend to be residential and agrarian. Suburban and intermediate cities and periurban dynamic towns are mosaics of land uses and activities where the “rural” and “urban” intertwine. Looking at these results from the two narratives found, we see how centralized grids and large-scale hydropower through the “Hard” path can sustain uneven patterns of electricity consumption. Contrastingly, under the “Soft” path, distributed energy generation could provide opportunities for multiple small-scale projects of diverse renewable sources. This could help facing the heterogeneity of socio-metabolic profiles and provide enabling conditions for a small-scale and spatially distributed industrialization, instead of centralized traditional ways that reproduce uneven development.


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