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Rationalising territorially dispersed consumption: the projects of Fernand Courtoy for the electricity production and distribution of Belgium

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Abstract
The electrification of the notoriously dispersed urbanization patterns of Belgium was a complex and confused operation. The superposition of a nationwide industrial framework, consisting of large elements such as coal basins and sea ports, and a territory characterized by a very fragmented and functionally diverse spatial structure, led to the appearance of electricity in all sorts of locations following diverse arrangements. Within fifty years, large-scale industrial self-producers, regional electricity companies, provincial projects, urban municipal companies and small-scale local initiatives brought electricity to every part of Belgium, barely guided by a national policy. Within this disordered context, Fernand Courtoy occupied a very particular and somewhat exceptional position. As electrical engineer and shareholder of a local electricity company he was able to rationalize the electricity supply, first within his company (1911), and soon after in the entire industrial city of Liege (1919). Later, he became the driving force behind the establishment of the association of industrial self-producers (1922) and founded a consultancy firm that developed electricity plans for private companies as well as strategies for the electrification of whole provinces. Moreover, Courtoy was able to put his mark on the 1927 governmental commission that investigated the organization of an efficient electricity supply on the national scale. As the report of this commission proved to be too controversial for the strongly divided electricity sector, few of its propositions were realized. Nonetheless, through the debate provoked by the commission and through the numerous projects undertaken by his firm, Courtoy was able to introduce a perspective which was rather unusual for the Belgian context, combining large-scale rationalization with the national economic policies of dispersion. The paper discusses the various ways in which his plans searched for an efficient electricity supply, while recognizing the generalized availability of electricity as a necessary condition for Belgium’s distributed model of industrialization.
Keywords
industrialisation, dispersed urbanisation, Belgian planning history, electricity production and distribution, Fernand Courtoy, utility systems

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Chicago
Bruggeman, Dieter. 2016. “Rationalising Territorially Dispersed Consumption: The Projects of Fernand Courtoy for the Electricity Production and Distribution of Belgium.” In Reinterpreting Cities : 13th International Conference on Urban History. Helsinki: European Association for Urban History.
APA
Bruggeman, Dieter. (2016). Rationalising territorially dispersed consumption: the projects of Fernand Courtoy for the electricity production and distribution of Belgium. Reinterpreting Cities : 13th International Conference on Urban History. Presented at the Reinterpreting Cities : 13th International Conference on Urban History, Helsinki: European Association for Urban History.
Vancouver
1.
Bruggeman D. Rationalising territorially dispersed consumption: the projects of Fernand Courtoy for the electricity production and distribution of Belgium. Reinterpreting Cities : 13th International Conference on Urban History. Helsinki: European Association for Urban History; 2016.
MLA
Bruggeman, Dieter. “Rationalising Territorially Dispersed Consumption: The Projects of Fernand Courtoy for the Electricity Production and Distribution of Belgium.” Reinterpreting Cities : 13th International Conference on Urban History. Helsinki: European Association for Urban History, 2016. Print.
@inproceedings{8086295,
  abstract     = {The electrification of the notoriously dispersed urbanization patterns of Belgium was a complex and confused operation. The superposition of a nationwide industrial framework, consisting of large elements such as coal basins and sea ports, and a territory characterized by a very fragmented and functionally diverse spatial structure, led to the appearance of electricity in all sorts of locations following diverse arrangements. Within fifty years, large-scale industrial self-producers, regional electricity companies, provincial projects, urban municipal companies and small-scale local initiatives brought electricity to every part of Belgium, barely guided by a national policy. Within this disordered context, Fernand Courtoy occupied a very particular and somewhat exceptional position. As electrical engineer and shareholder of a local electricity company he was able to rationalize the electricity supply, first within his company (1911), and soon after in the entire industrial city of Liege (1919). Later, he became the driving force behind the establishment of the association of industrial self-producers (1922) and founded a consultancy firm that developed electricity plans for private companies as well as strategies for the electrification of whole provinces. Moreover, Courtoy was able to put his mark on the 1927 governmental commission that investigated the organization of an efficient electricity supply on the national scale. As the report of this commission proved to be too controversial for the strongly divided electricity sector, few of its propositions were realized. Nonetheless, through the debate provoked by the commission and through the numerous projects undertaken by his firm, Courtoy was able to introduce a perspective which was rather unusual for the Belgian context, combining large-scale rationalization with the national economic policies of dispersion. The paper discusses the various ways in which his plans searched for an efficient electricity supply, while recognizing the generalized availability of electricity as a necessary condition for Belgium{\textquoteright}s distributed model of industrialization.},
  author       = {Bruggeman, Dieter},
  booktitle    = {Reinterpreting Cities : 13th International Conference on Urban History},
  keyword      = {industrialisation,dispersed urbanisation,Belgian planning history,electricity production and distribution,Fernand Courtoy,utility systems},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Helsinki},
  pages        = {18},
  publisher    = {European Association for Urban History},
  title        = {Rationalising territorially dispersed consumption: the projects of Fernand Courtoy for the electricity production and distribution of Belgium},
  year         = {2016},
}