Energy at the End of the World

Book News

Awarded the prestigious Rachel Carson Prize 2021 for its distinctive social and political relevance and contribution to public debate and social change. Awarded by Society for Social Studies of Science (4S). Read more about the prize.

Shortlisted for Scottish national literary award, Saltire Research Book of the Year 2019.
Longlisted for the Highland Book Prize 2019.

“In Energy at the End of the World infrastructures become visible, palpable, personal and energy becomes something that you can feel on your skin…” -Phillip Vannini, book review for Social & Cultural Geography.

“The greatest contribution of Watts’s book, and it is a striking one, is that the Orcadian idiom for talking about energy infrastructures is… relationships – and relationships necessarily involve pasts, presents and futures.”The Times Literary Supplement book review.

Available now as hardbook or ebook from your local bookshop or online from Hive, Amazon, Blackwells, and retailers and libraries worldwide. For full details on where to buy see the MIT Press Book website.

For publicity and review enquires please contact MIT Press Marketing.

About the Book

Energy at the End of the World: an Orkney Islands Saga tells the story of how these islands are making their own energy future, from marine energy to hydrogen fuel, at what some see as the edge of the world.

“Mixing storytelling and ethnography, empiricism and lyricism, Watts tells an Orkney energy saga—an account of how the islands are creating their own low-carbon future, in the face of the seemingly impossible. The Orkney Islands, Watts shows, are playing a long game, making energy futures for another six thousand years.”

Read an extract from the book about the wandering monster who haunts the islands…

Book Donation

This book has been a decade in the making, and is an ongoing collaboration with innumerable friends and colleagues in Orkney, without whom this book would not be possible. Author royalties are being donated to THAW Orkney, the charity working for affordable warmth and tackling fuel poverty in the islands. Additional donations to the charity are always welcome.



Every book conjures a playlist. This one is inspired by the book, its seascape, archaeology, and futures… Listen to the Spotify playlist…


Or cheering from the side-lines by wonderful colleagues…

“An enormously creative, richly told story of how energy infrastructures are being remade by everyday people in a remote place.” – Phoebe Sengers, Associate Professor, Cornell University

“Energy at the End of the World is exceptionally ambitious, forming an almost entirely new genre.” – Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, Associate Professor, VU Amsterdam

“Elegy and analysis, ethnography and manifesto: the result is a rare glimpse of what can be achieved with committed transdisciplinary inspiration and rigor.” – Andrew Stirling, Professor of Science & Technology Policy, University of Sussex

“A must-read poetic musing for researchers and designers engaged in the mundane practices of everyday future making in any nook of the world.” – Pelle Ehn, Professor Emeritus at the School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University

“an enthralling introduction to the unique socioenvironment of Orkney and the making of energy on these islands.” – Pippa Goldschmidt, Author of The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space

Reviews & Comments

Journal of Social Anthropology, Book Review by Katherine Dow

Journal of Social and Cultural Geography, Book Review by Phillip Vannini

Science, Technology & Human Values (ST&HV) Journal, Book Review by Shana Lee Hirsch, ‘Making Global Problems Local: Understanding large-scale environmental issues using ethnographic methods’

Science & Technology Studies (STS) Journal, Book Review by Veera Kinnunen, Jarno Valkonen

4S Backchannels (Society for Social Studies of Science) ‘Why Feminist Figurations Matters in Energy Futures’ (book review & interview) by Amanda Windle

CHOICE (Current Reviews for Academic Libraries) Book Review, highly recommended

Forbes ‘The Energy Revolution Happening At The End Of The World’ Book Review by James Ellsmoor

Society & Space Journal, Book Review by Erik Kojola

Times Literary Supplement (TLS) ‘Go to the waves’ Book Review.

Revolve magazine ‘Energy Futures at the Edge of the World’ (book extract)

Engineering & Technology IET Magazine Book Review

The Ecologist ‘Energy Islands penalised for becoming too clean’ Book Review

DeSMOG UK ‘Orkney: The ‘Energy Islands’ Penalised for Becoming Too Clean, Too Soon’ Book Review

Nature “The history of distant worlds, a clear eye on renewables and environmental lessons from a tiger’s tale: Books in brief”

The Observer (The Guardian) “How Orkney leads the way for sustainable energy”

Forbes “These islands are leading the drive for hydrogen energy”

World Economic Forum, Davos 2019 “These tiny Scottish islands are a renewable energy powerhouse” (short film) – also covered by Leonardo DiCaprio’s instagram

LitHub “Deep Time and an Uncertain Future on the Orkney Islands”

MIT Press Blog “Light and life in the energy future”

The Orkney News ‘Orkney Energy Futures’ review of the Book Launch, Stromness.

ACM Interactions What are you reading? Phoebe Sengers, Brief book review


RNZ (Radio New Zealand) Sunday Morning “Orkney’s sustainability revolution” (radio)

France24 Live TV Interview ‘Perspectives’ – Orkney: A renewable energy revolution (television)

Radio Orkney, Tullimentan interview (radio)