Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Geography and Environment


Baxter, Jamie


To address the problem of transitioning to a lower-carbon energy system this dissertation, addresses energy use in eco-districts to provide insights into what a low carbon future could look like and on how it can contribute to the development of sustainable energy landscapes. To understand the role of energy in eco-districts, an Urban Energy Landscape (UEL) conceptual framework is used to investigate energy distribution and usage in two case study eco-districts, with one located in Montpellier, France (Parc Marianne) and the other in Vancouver, Canada (Olympic Village). To reveal how UELs can lead to the development of sustainable energy landscapes, an important component of a sustainable energy transition, an energy territorialization lens is utilized to provide insights on elements of the energy landscape of eco-districts that support the needed energy transition. Starting with a grounded theory approach oriented by concepts such as UEL, energy territorialization, eco-districts and sustainable energy landscapes, a suite of field methods including qualitative semi-structured interviews and observational data (photo, video, participant observation) through 'lived experiences' in the study sites is used to understand how each of the UEL characteristics territorialize energy. Because of the attention put on understanding how energy systems function in eco-district residences, findings related to how the eco-district residents interact with their household energy systems are particularly interesting. A comparison of the energy territorialization of the two eco-districts’ UELs show that the majority of territorialized energy is produced by the district energy (DE) systems found in both case studies. However, the ‘energy choreography’ of the residents of Parc Marianne show a greater level of energy territorialization because of their superior ‘energy literacy’, ‘efficient living’ and use of simple energy controls when compared to the ‘techno dependent’ Olympic Village residents where energy controls are ‘outsourced’ and where occupants are habituated to using larger spaces for the same uses as the Parc Marianne residents. The research shows that analyzing UELs through a territorialization lens provides a potential tool for policy makers and community advocates for making decisions that further the needed energy transition to a low carbon future.

Summary for Lay Audience

What does a sustainable energy system look like? This study finds that a territorialized Urban Energy Landscape can support a lower carbon energy transition. But what does that mean? Geographers borrowed the term landscape from artists, and some consider geography as a ‘landscape science’. Landscapes don’t only mean visible environments and can also be invisible systems like energy. This study views communities as Urban Energy Landscapes. An energy territorialization lens is used to understand how ‘rooted’ energy systems are in two different urban communities defined as eco-districts, one in Montpellier, France and the other in Vancouver, Canada. While physically the two landscapes are remarkedly similar, the lens used shows that the energy landscapes are different, with Montpellier residents having a significantly more engaged relationship with energy than their Canadian cousins who, are considered much more ‘techno-dependent’. The findings provide insights for the needed steps that support a transition to a low carbon future.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.