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The smart grid as commons: Exploring alternatives to infrastructure financialisation

Hall, Stephen; Jonas, Andrew E.G.; Shepherd, Simon; Wadud, Zia


Stephen Hall

Simon Shepherd

Zia Wadud


This paper explores a tension between financialisation of electricity infrastructures and efforts to bring critical urban systems into common ownership. Focusing on the emerging landscape of electricity regulation and e-mobility in the United Kingdom (UK), it examines how electricity grid ownership has become financialised, and why the economic assumptions that enabled this financialisation are being called into question. New technologies, such as smart electricity meters and electric vehicles, provide cities with new tools to tackle poor air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Electricity grids are key enabling infrastructures but the companies that run them do not get rewarded for improving air quality or tackling climate change. UK government regulation of electricity grids both enables financialisation and forecloses opportunities to manage the infrastructure for wider environmental and public benefit. Nonetheless, the addition of smart devices to this network - the ‘smart grid’ – opens up an opportunity for common ownership of the infrastructure. Transforming the smart grid into commons necessitates deep structural reform to the entire architecture of infrastructure regulation in the UK.


Hall, S., Jonas, A. E., Shepherd, S., & Wadud, Z. (2019). The smart grid as commons: Exploring alternatives to infrastructure financialisation. Urban studies, 56(7), 1386-1403.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 24, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 11, 2018
Publication Date May 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 12, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jun 7, 2019
Journal Urban Studies
Print ISSN 0042-0980
Electronic ISSN 1360-063X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 56
Issue 7
Pages 1386-1403
Keywords Infrastructure, urban commons, electricity grid, e-mobility
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