Fossil fuels, more than water, are immediately associated with the industrial energy transition. Preindustrial energy sources, however, continued to play a role in industrial energy regimes. This was the case in the industrializing Po Valley, where water power remained crucial until the 1960s. The article analyzes the ways in which the technological and spatial features of mechanical hydropower and hydroelectricity combined with the spatial and environmental features of the Po watershed, as well as the different envirotechnical regimes associated with these configurations. Through this approach, it sheds lights on the radical change that hydropower underwent during industrialization: from discontinuous to continuous energy production, from diffusion to concentration of access to water resources, and from small- to large-scale, basin-wide system building and interdependency. Concentration, continuity, and large-scale interdependency transformed profoundly the social distribution of access to hydropower, and scaled up, without eliminating, the influence of environmental factors on water power production.


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pp. 652-688
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Open Access
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