Dr Penelope Plaza speaks to Dr Dave O’Brien’s New Books in Critical Theory podcast

Dr Penelope Plaza speaks to Dr Dave O’Brien’s New Books in Critical Theory podcast about the relationship between oil, culture and city

How do states use cultural policy? In Culture as Renewable Oil: How Territory, Bureaucratic Power and Culture Coalesce in the Venezuelan Petrostate (Routledge, 2018), Penelope Plaza Azuaje, a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Reading explores the case study of Venezuela to think through the relationship between states, territory, and culture. The book develops the idea of culture as a resource, showing the close relationship between oil and culture, and culture and oil, along with the history of the Venezuelan petrostate. Packed with detailed visual analysis, along with a rich theoretical framework covering urban development, bureaucracy, and power, the book will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the role of culture in the city.


The New Books Network (NBN) is a consortium of author-interview podcast channels dedicated to raising the level of public discourse by introducing scholars and other serious writers to a wide public via new media. The NBN is supported by Amherst College Press, Princeton University Press, MIT Press, and The University of Michigan Press.

Dr Dave O’Brien is Chancellor’s Fellow in Cultural and Creative Industries, History of Art, University of Edinburgh.

Twitter: @NewBooksCritThe   @DrDaveOBrien @DrPenelopePlaza


Dr Plaza’s Culture as Renewable Oil shortlisted

Dr Plaza’s Culture as Renewable Oil shortlisted for the Royal Geography Society Political Geography Research Group Book Award 2019-2020

Dr Penelope Plaza’s book Culture as Renewable Oil: How Territory, Bureaucratic Power and Culture Coalesce in the Venezuelan Petrostate (Routledge, 2018) has been nominated and shortlisted for the RGS Political Geography Research Group Book Award 2019-2020. The Political Geography Research Group Royal Geographic Society (PolGRG) Book Award officially launched in 2017, with sponsorship from the journal Political Geography. The PolGRG Book Award is aimed at published volumes stirring interest and debate around: territoriality and sovereignty, states, cities, and citizenship; geopolitics, political economy, political ecology; migration, globalization, (post)colonialism; social movements and governance; peace, conflict and security, as well as the mutual geographical construction of these phenomena with gender, race, class, sexuality and religion.  The book award committee reviews all nominations and shortlist a maximum of 5 books, with emphasis on early career authors and on authors from the Global South. The winner will be announced in April 2020. 

Twitter: @DrPenelopePlaza @RGS_PolGRG 

Link to RGS’s Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) https://polgrg.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/the-polgrg-book-award-2019-2020-in-conjunction-with-political-geography-journal/

Routledge link to book: https://www.routledge.com/Culture-as-Renewable-Oil-How-Territory-Bureaucratic-Power-and-Culture/Azuaje/p/book/9781138573772

Time, flexibility and energy demand – postcards from a workshop

Whole Centre Workshop, September 2019

The CREDS programme includes projects that work across times scales ranging from seconds to centuries and that investigate the timing of energy demand during the day, over the week or across the year.
Since matters of time and timing are central to the energy demand agenda, it made sense to organise a whole centre workshop devoted to this topic. A reading pack, including participants’ own written contributions interspersed with texts from different disciplines, provided a common point of reference, inspiring and informing detailed discussion of the temporalities of demand.

Towards the end of the workshop we invited participants to capture some of the ideas and thoughts that had been generated along the way, and set them down in the form of a postcard written to a fictional friend or colleague who could not make it to the event itself. Since these are quite literally the messages arising from the event, we reproduce a selection of them here, heavily edited with a wider audience in mind.

Read here for more details.


A Win-win for Everyone? Demand-side flexibility and people’s activities

Flexibility of electricity demand is often seen as critical for balancing the grid when consumption is high and when there are drops in supply from renewables. The benefits of demand side flexibility include improving balancing with renewables; reducing the costs of electricity generation; and making the most of smart systems and battery storage. But is flexibility a win-win for everyone, including end-users? In this talk, Jacopo Torriti seeks to address this question by presenting an investigation of people’s activities and how these underpin peaks and drops in demand.

More details can be found here: https://www.energy.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/events/event/a-win-win-for-everyone-demand-side-flexibility-and-peoples-activities/ and https://talks.ox.ac.uk/talks/id/a553e8af-aa2a-4918-931a-8b9ff6f1835e/




Reading 2050 Vision Workshop: 4th November 2019

University of Reading will be hosting the next Reading 2050 Vision Workshop on Monday 4th November 2019 in partnership with Barton Wilmore, to review progress and consider how we can continue to support the Vision and its ambitions for Reading.

Reading 2050 Lecture by John Worthington

Reading 2050 Lecture:  A personal perspective – the role of Reading in a dynamic knowledge economy 1980-2050 (John Worthington)

Date: Thursday October 24

Time: 18:00 pm – 19:00 pm

Venue: L022 G01, London Road Campus

All welcome.

John Worthington MBE is a prominent architecture academic and co-founder of architecture and space planning consultancy DEGW.

Cities are changing at an increasing speed yet seen from the perspective of a thousand years the nature of change in cities is organic and incremental. 

In the last six decades, what defines a city in a post-industrial age has been reformulated. The city as defined by its economy is now a series of connected, distinctive places, within a polycentric metropolitan region. Wealth creation has shifted from the manufacturing of products to the creation and application of ideas.

Looking ahead, how might cities respond? This Reading 2050 public lecture will give John’s personal perspective and hopes for the future of towns and cities as more caring places, driven by artificial intelligence and acting on the challenges of climate change.

Read John’s Blog at: https://research.reading.ac.uk/research-blog/event/reading-2050-a-personal-perspective-the-role-of-reading-in-a-dynamic-knowledge-economy-1980-2050-john-worthington-mbe/

Influence of evaporative cooling by urban forests on cooling demand in cities

Recent work (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2018.07.023) by Dr. Shahrestani and Dr. Smith, in collaboration with Forest Research, demonstrated that trees in an idealised urban setting will impact on cooling loads of air conditioned buildings. Whilst the work provides a first look into the potential offsetting of cooling energy demands by trees, it demonstrates a significant effect that is motivating more research on the topic. National and local press coverage of the broader issues being pointed to by our research can be found here:






Consultation on the Fuel Poverty Strategy for England

In 2014, the government introduced in legislation a fuel poverty target for England to improve as many fuel poor homes as is reasonably practicable to a minimum energy efficiency rating of B and C, by the end of 2030. BEIS is now looking to update the fuel poverty strategy for England.

Summary of our response

CREDS agrees with BEIS that addressing energy efficiency is a key step in not only combating fuel poverty but also in meeting our Net Zero by 2050 objectives. Improving energy efficiency is a key way of achieving lasting reductions in fuel poverty by permanently reducing heating costs. There is also evidence that broadening the measure of fuel poverty to embrace social factors would be beneficial.

Mari Martiskainen, Ed Dearnley, Nick Eyre and Kay Jenkinson responded on behalf of CREDS.

Full response

Flexible and responsive energy retail markets: putting consumers at the centre of a smart, low carbon energy system

As part of the Future energy market review, BEIS sought views on its vision for the future of energy retail markets, including key opportunities and challenges.

Summary of our response

The position of the consultation document is that there are challenges to increasing flexibility whilst maintaining high levels of access for all consumers and these should be studied and understood. We agree with this general position and in our response we try to unpack some of these challenges and provide information on how research can be used to facilitate the transition to an energy system which is not only more efficient from a technical perspective, but also fair for consumers.

Jacopo Torriti and Nick Eyre responded on behalf of CREDS.

Full response