The literature of energy geographies is increasingly employing a place-related approach to unpack the interrelations between place, politics, and community energy (CE). Yet, they often adopt a project-centric scope, with little attention paid to non-energy-related local concerns and political dynamics preceding CE projects. Moreover, CE studies mostly focus on western settings, thereby overlooking cases with very different development trajectories. To address these limits, this study employs the relational place-making framework to situate a CE project in the development history of a community. It draws upon the Taromak 100% Green Energy Tribe Initiative in Taiwan, which is a part of a local struggle for tribal autonomy following century-long processes of colonization and modernization. Using qualitative methods this study analyzes: (1) the place-making processes that shape the geo-historical context of the Taromak CE project; (2) how the Taromak people variously situate the CE project in their place-framings; and (3) how identity politics based on these place-framings shapes and is reshaped by the CE initiative. The study finds that an active interplay between the CE initiative and the politics among two coalitions of competing place-frames takes place, and that the interpretation of the shared place identity is constantly contested. This demonstrates a need to reflect on the energy-centric research agenda, and calls for a historical perspective that investigates place identity’s mobilizing capacity in relation to the placemaking dynamics. I argue that situating CE in this dynamics allows researchers to better recognize the objectives and subjectivity of grassroots actors in participating in these projects.

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Keywords Energy geographies, Community energy, Relational approach, Place-making, Identity politics, Tribal autonomy
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Journal Geoforum
Lai, H.-L. (2019). Situating Community Energy in Development History. Geoforum, 100, 176–187. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.01.006