The Powerlessness of the Powerful: Can Energy Elites Construct Energy Futures?

Anna Rauter

Current Status

After successful completion of 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork focused on Oslo, Norway (from September 2018 – February 2020), Anna is now in the process of writing-up her doctoral thesis.

Project Duration

September 2017 – September 2021

Project Description

During Anna’s fieldwork, she had the opportunity to conduct research amongst leaders and experts working in the Norwegian energy industry. This included technical experts, managers, executives and other stakeholders who work in various energy and energy-related companies. Anna’s ethnographic research is based on qualitative data collection including participant observation and interviews. During her stay in Norway, she was hosted by two Norwegian energy companies and interviewed people from a multitude of other corporations including consultant-, supplier-, developer and operating firms as well as investment and state institutions.

Anna wishes to sincerely thank all of the people who have shared their insights and personal stories with her. Individual identifiers such as names of people and companies are anonymised in all her publications.

Anna’s PhD thesis examines how energy industry leaders and experts in Norway – whom she refers to as ‘energy elites’ – envision and shape energy trajectories. In particular, Anna examines how energy elites perceive power structures – both in the sense of energy (oil, gas, electricity) and in terms of the authority and agency of people in leadership positions. With her exploration of these power structures, she aims to provide a better understanding of the complex web of interdependencies, responsibilities, and expectations that surround contemporary energy and climate concerns.

Like the other projects undertaken by the Energy Ethics research group, this study is financed by the European Research Council (ERC) and is based in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Background

This PhD study with its focus on experts and leaders in the energy industry is linked to Anna’s MA (Hons) thesis, which examined the emergence of a ‘business elite’ in post-socialist Mongolia. For this project she conducted two months of fieldwork in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. The research methodology also consisted of participant observation and semi-formal interviews. The main finding was that power structures during Mongolia’s socialist era have evolved to form an elite business (and political) class with clout over the growing, natural-resource dependent economy.

Anna holds an MA (Hons). in International Relations and Social Anthropology from the University of St Andrews, Scotland.