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Governing energy transitions, and its politics

Invited speaker to a conference at Tokyo University in February 2010.

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Governing energy transitions, and its politics

  1. 1. <ul><li>Governing energy transitions, and its politics </li></ul><ul><li>Adrian Smith </li></ul><ul><li>SPRU – Science & Technology Policy Research </li></ul><ul><li>University of Sussex </li></ul><ul><li>Paper for the conference on Transition Management for Sustainable Society </li></ul><ul><li>Tokyo University, 13-14 February 2010 </li></ul>
  2. 2. Argument <ul><li>Climate change and secure energy: from diffusing cleaner technologies to wide-scale socio-technical transformation </li></ul><ul><li>UK illustration: recognising the transition challenge, but struggling to escape neo-classical economic framework </li></ul><ul><li>Transition analysis: a framework for understanding and coordinating complex, transformation activities </li></ul><ul><li>Dutch illustration: transition governance, but captured by existing energy policy network </li></ul><ul><li>A political programme for transition governance? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Transition imperatives? A UK illustration 2006 emissions International aviation & shipping* UK non-CO 2 GHGs Other CO 2 Industry (heat & industrial processes) Residential & Commercial heat Domestic transport Electricity Generation * bunker fuels basis 2050 objective 159 Mt CO 2 e 695 Mt CO 2 e 77% cut (= 80% vs. 1990)
  4. 4. <ul><li>“ A low carbon economy is not a slogan. It will entail, over the next few decades, the transformation of our lives and of our economy - as the Prime Minister has put it, a ‘technological revolution’ in the way we use and source our energy. And in turn - because energy use pervades every aspect of our lives - this will imply a social transformation, in the way we live .” </li></ul><ul><li>(HM Government, 2008: 2). </li></ul><ul><li>Moot point whether technological revolution comes before the social revolution (as implied by PM). </li></ul>Low carbon innovation policy in UK
  5. 5. Low carbon innovation policy in UK Source: BERR (2008) <ul><li>Market deployment : </li></ul><ul><li>emissions trading </li></ul><ul><li>tradable green certificates </li></ul><ul><li>energy efficiency commitments </li></ul><ul><li>capital grants </li></ul>
  6. 6. Carbon price has had a bumpy ride Phase I Phase II How high must prices rise in order to pull through path-breaking low carbon innovations in the energy sector? And how politically acceptable are high prices?
  7. 7. Carbon price has had a bumpy ride A plot of the prices of year-ahead EUA futures contracts
  8. 8. Innovations and abatement costs Some measures are already cost-effective, so why are they not more widespread?
  9. 9. <ul><li>UK LCTP = R&D subsidy + market signals = low carbon economy </li></ul><ul><li>Linear model of firm-based innovation cf. networked and distributed </li></ul><ul><li>Technology focused: nuclear; CCS; wind; tidal; …Pie charts and wedges </li></ul><ul><li>Emissions trading provides demand-pull for innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Results: </li></ul><ul><li>Low renewable energy capacity – two per cent energy, six per cent electy </li></ul><ul><li>Mass onshore wind is contentious; marine energy is finely balanced; offshore wind is rolling out slowly; micro-renewables market is small, CCS and nuclear much discussed - a few projects announced </li></ul><ul><li>Virtually no district heating and poor energy performance in buildings (though new-build standards are improving) </li></ul>Mixed results in the UK
  10. 10. UK Low Carbon Transition Plan (July 2009) Draws together the mix of existing and new initiatives into an overall plan for meeting the 2020 carbon reduction target of 18 per cent lower than 2008 levels A package of low carbon measures cf. a coherently co-ordinated programme for transition: RD&D subsidies, advice and information programmes, favourable land-use planning reforms and infrastructure agency, community engagement (see later) Carbon price through emissions trading remains the main pull for innovation LCIP = R&D subsidy + price mechanisms + friendlier planning + informed consumers
  11. 11. Transition analysis <ul><li>Historical studies of radical, wide-scale ‘socio-technical’ transitions suggests policy frameworks need to do three things: </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitating the development of path-breaking, innovative niches with wide-scale (and rapid) implications for low carbon energy </li></ul><ul><li>Destabilising incumbent energy regimes further and faster, thereby opening up opportunities for radical change </li></ul><ul><li>Helping investors, businesses, communities, and citizens to translate their interests and aspirations into innovative niches </li></ul>
  12. 12. Niches and path-breaking experiments Scientific knowledge Infrastructure Energy markets Carbon markets Grid management Institutions Environmental impacts Willing customers (utilities) Maintenance Social acceptability Skilled workforce Components Core technology Developing low carbon alternatives requires considerable agency, in order to align the material, institutional and discursive elements necessary for a ‘working’ socio-technical configuration : Niche policy = knowledge, technical, organisational, economic, and political work
  13. 13. High carbon regimes and escaping lock-in <ul><li>Incumbent systems of provision (e.g. electricity socio-technical regimes ) disadvantage niche activity due to mutually reinforcing path-dependencies: </li></ul><ul><li>Capabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Economics </li></ul><ul><li>Vested interests </li></ul><ul><li>Politics and power </li></ul><ul><li>Infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Technological and user cultures </li></ul><ul><li>BUT </li></ul><ul><li>these regimes are under pressure too (e.g. environmental change, social pressure, demography, re-ordered discourses, internal dynamics and contradictions); </li></ul><ul><li>regime tensions provide opportunities for alternative niches </li></ul><ul><li>policies and programmes for sustainable transitions need to unsettle these regimes </li></ul>
  14. 14. Transition analysis: a multi-level perspective Source: Geels (2002) Future systems CCS CES Wave LCL Fossil fuelled electricity Wind
  15. 15. Transition Governance Source: Geels (2002) Pressure on regime to become sustainable Empowering environmental awareness and values Whose lessons should drive future adaptations? Whose visions count? How to redistribute commitments from regime to niches? How to destabilise the regime? Where does all this take place? Which niches to support; whose criteria? Pathways to visions Pathways to visions Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Visions for sustainable energy systems Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Socio-technical niches Appraisal / Social learning Commitments / Politics
  16. 16. Dutch Energy Transition Structure
  17. 17. Dutch Energy Transition Platforms <ul><li>Production </li></ul><ul><li>of biomass </li></ul>Energy in the Built Environment Sustainable Electricity Sustainable Mobility Chain Efficiency New Gas Biomass Import of biomass (under construction) Co-production Sustainable chemistry and innovative use of biobased resources Green gas Decentral Clean fossils Hydrogen Energy improvements in built enviroment hybridisation E 85/flexifuel Driving on natural gas and biogas Eco label Slim leasen Clean busses Sustainable paper chains Material reuse Renewal of production systems Development and implementation of innovations Removal of institutional barriers Electricity infrastructure Electricity use Offshore wind strategy group Sustainable agricultural chains Energy Transition Taskforce (TFE); Inter-ministerial Policy Directorate (IPE)
  18. 18. Criticism of the Dutch Energy Transition (ET) <ul><li>Government went to existing energy policy networks. Initially captured by incumbents. ET civil servants recognise they need to broaden participation. </li></ul><ul><li>Technology-based niches dominate (cf. social niches), selected on conventional RD&D criteria (CBA, NL plc) rather than path-breaking potential, plus pressure to demonstrate success through some early wins. </li></ul><ul><li>Tension between adaptability/learning and long-lived infrastructures not resolved. </li></ul><ul><li>Policies to destabilise the regime are poorly developed: ET needs to link more influentially to wider energy policy – legitimate authority (see later) </li></ul><ul><li>ET a conduit for RD&D rather than a programme for transforming regimes. Inherited energy institutions shaping transition policy more than the policy reforming institutions. </li></ul><ul><li>BUT, transition arenas provide opportunities for others to demand more, space for transition institutions to develop </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Talking about the non-voluntary transformation of the everyday. </li></ul><ul><li>This makes it an issue for democratic politics, not just better process design. </li></ul><ul><li>Top-down, corporatist version of transition policy needs to balanced and complemented by bottom-up political activities that empower citizens and communities. Social change niches balance technology-led ones – community engagement in UK is interesting here . </li></ul><ul><li>A political programme creates powerful institutions built on a popular mandate, e.g. decentralises control over energy systems and redistributes resources </li></ul><ul><li>What signs are there that sustainability transition is a mass movement issue? Can we afford to wait? Conversely, is urgency on the scale demanded possible without widespread legitimacy? </li></ul>Transition politics
  20. 20. <ul><li>Transition processes: </li></ul><ul><li>who governs? </li></ul><ul><li>whose vision counts? </li></ul><ul><li>whose niches get prioritised? </li></ul><ul><li>which lessons should prevail? </li></ul><ul><li>how to destabilise the regime? </li></ul><ul><li>redistributing commitments? </li></ul><ul><li>where does all this take place? </li></ul><ul><li>Transition institutions: how can we ensure transition processes for low carbon path building are democratic and legitimate? </li></ul><ul><li>Transition politics: what might a broader political programme for transitions to low carbon societies look like? how to link the politics of substance with the details of process in transition policy? </li></ul>Conclusion: some open questions
  21. 21. More information … Transition analysis Smith, A. (2007) Translating sustainabilities between green niches and socio-technical regimes Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 19, 4: 427-450 Smith, A., Stirling, A. and F. Berkhout (2005) The governance of sustainable sociotechnical transitions, Research Policy 34:1491-1510. UK energy policy Scrase, I. and G. Mackerron (2009) (eds.) Energy for the Future Palgrave, London. Dutch energy transition policy Smith, A. and F. Kern (2009) The transitions storyline in Dutch environmental policy Environmental Politics 18, 1: 78-98 Transition politics Voβ, J-P., Smith, A. And J. Grin (2009) Designing long-term policy: re-thinking transition management Policy Sciences 42, 4: 275-302. Scrase, A. and A. Smith (2009) The (non-) politics of managing transitions to low carbon socio-technical systems Environmental Politics 18, 5: 707-726