SOAS University of London

SOAS student wins DSA Dissertation Prize

23 February 2021

MSc Development Studies student Adela Syslová has been awarded the DSA Dissertation Prize for her dissertation entitled 'Whose Sustainability? Political Economy of renewable energy transitions in Morocco and Algeria'. Adela won the prestigious award for best masters’ level dissertation in the field of international development, development studies and development economics. 

In reaction to the news, Adela said: "I am thrilled to have received the MSc dissertation prize awarded by the Development Studies Association. I believe it only reflects the quality of teaching at SOAS and specifically our Development Studies department. In my dissertation, I analysed the political economy of energy transitions in Morocco and Algeria. With this topic, I managed to marry my background in Middle Eastern Studies to my enthusiasm for sustainable development. I could also make use of the valuable knowledge I learned in my favorite module - Political Economy of Development.

Besides winning the prize, I have been given the opportunity to present my research at the DSA Conference in June-July 2021. This is all an unexpectedly great honor, and I hope to use it well in my future academic and professional career. I would like to thank all my teachers and tutors for making my year at SOAS a wonderful experience. Most essentially, in relation to my dissertation, I thank Adam Hanieh for encouraging me to engage with the topic of renewables in North Africa, and my supervisor Gilbert Achcar for guiding me through particularisation of my research, contributing greatly to the dissertation's overall coherence."

Professor of Development Studies and International Relations, and Adela’s dissertation supervisor, Gilbert Achcar said: "Rarely does a Master's dissertation break new ground, and yet that is what Adela brilliantly achieved with her very original assessment of the conditions and pitfalls of transition to renewable energy in two contrasting North African countries."

Adela’s dissertation applys Unruh’s carbon lock-in as an analytical framework to answer the following questions: How do the different political economy environments of oil-importing Morocco and oil-exporting Algeria influence the deployment of sustainable energy strategies and vice-versa? To what extent does access to fossil fuels interfere with renewable energy development? To what extent does resource scarcity support a fast transition towards renewables?

Intervening Unruh’s carbon lock-in, Adel’s dissertation shows that although the transition towards renewable energies leads to environmentally sustainable outcomes, it can also induce the deployment of technologies which are as socially unsustainable as fossil fuels in the way they create path dependency in unequal structures of power.

Adela will present her research at the DSA conference in June-July 2021 where she will also officially receive the prize.