Realigning the electric city. Legacies of energy autarky in Berlin and Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

8 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


  • Timothy Moss
  • Maria Francesch-Huidobro

Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-236
Journal / PublicationEnergy Research and Social Science
Online published9 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


Whilst cities are widely regarded as playing a pivotal role in energy transitions, recent research is highlighting the enormous variety of urban responses. This differentiated picture of urban energy transitions is helpfully opening up the debate to the multifarious factors shaping urban energy policy. What is in danger of getting lost in these powerfully 'presentist' narratives is a sense of where these urban responses are coming from and how historical legacies of energy production and use are influencing future options. This paper uses a comparative historical analysis of two iconic 'electric cities' - Berlin and Hong Kong - to explore the legacies of past socio-technical configurations for today's attempts to realign urban energy systems. It investigates firstly, how, in response to their respective geo-political isolation prior to reunification in 1990/1997, the two cities strove to maximise local energy autarky for security reasons. The paper, secondly, demonstrates how political and economic reintegration in the 1990s has initiated a realignment of each city's energy policy, as power grids become regionalised and local generation capacity questioned. We conclude by drawing implications from these historical legacies of energy autarky and regionalisation for the cities' responses to the low carbon challenge today.

Research Area(s)

  • Berlin, Energy autarky, Hong Kong, Urban energy transitions