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Accepted Paper:

Exploring the transformative potential of renewable energy initiatives  
Antonia Proka (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions) Matthijs Hisschemoller (Erasmus University Rotterdam) derk Loorbach (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the role of business models, described as narratives/stories of how organisations work, in articulating the underlying conflicts between niche and regime, as well as, how business models can contribute to coalition building for the acceleration of the energy transition.

Paper long abstract:

The dominant fossil fuel-based energy regime has achieved to conceal its full cost. While regime practices are backgrounded, in a hegemonic way regimes define what is acceptable and what not, and the shared orientation towards the maintenance of the status quo fortifies the complex relationship between governments and incumbents.

Yet, a misalignment of the material, organisational, and discursive formations of the fossil fuel hegemony is noted, as divestment campaigns challenge fossil fuels legitimacy, incumbents (discursively) reposition themselves and, paradoxically, build strategic alliances with formerly considered competitors.

At the same time, renewable energy cooperatives and energy service companies redefine taken-for-granted assumptions underpinning the regime, imagining and illustrating an alternative energy system. Nevertheless, radical innovations, where conflict becomes apparent, run the risk of incompatibility with the regime they wish to influence. Therefore, niches engage in a 'war of position', seeking to enrol new actors and build the countervailing networks that will allow them to compete with the established regime.

For a regime shift to take place niches need to be empowered. Our argument is that Business Models (BMs), described as narratives/stories of how organisations work, articulate the underlying niche-regime conflicts as regards issues like technology, organisational structure, and associated social practices, and may facilitate coalition building.

With the aim to examine how BMs can empower niches to accelerate a regime shift, and in order to assess their transformative potential, we study the BMs of a number of renewable energy initiatives in the Netherlands and introduce a framework for analysis.

Panel T046
New Technologies, social practices and social conflict - sustainable energy transitions as a field of contention
  Session 1 Saturday 3 September, 2016, -