Accepted Paper:

Energy transitions: Arenas, agency and processes  

Author:

Tomas Moe Skjølsvold (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is to propose a research agenda for the study of transitions in the energy sector, with a focus on what I call transition agency and transition processes across different arenas of development (AoD)

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to propose a research agenda for the study of transitions in the energy sector, with a focus on what I call transition agency and transition processes across different arenas of development (AoD)(Jørgensen 2008). Currently, the multi-level perspective (MLP) dominates the study of such transitions. While the MLP makes a three-level conceptual distinction between niches, sociotechnical regimes and a landscape, I take cue from AoD scholars and others (e.g. Schatzki 2011) who propose a "flat" approach to transitions. This approach underscores the importance of grasping the work done by multiple actors at multiple sites to help or hinder specific transitions. Empirically I draw on examples from previously published work relating to the so-called "smart grid", what some scholars have called "a fundamental energy transition […], a move away from the centralized energy regime […] [to] a decentralized regime" (Boucher 2016, 1). Through these studies, I intend to illustrate how a smart grid transition implies orchestration, or translation of interests across and between at least four different arenas: 1) a policy arena, 2) an R&D arena, 3) a design arena, and 4) an arena of use. Through studies of these arenas, I identify at least four potential transition processes with uncertain outcomes. These are a) the production of expectations, b) network construction and re-configuration, c) scripting, and d) domestication. Combined, the description of these processes, the enacted agency involved, and the arenas where they unfold paint a messy picture of energy transitions, complicating the idea of "manageability" which is quite common in transition studies.

Panel T050
Conceptualizing transformational change in energy systems and the built environment