Panel 1: The importance of governance for innovation: a theory of practice transition

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Panel 1: The importance of governance for innovation: a theory of practice transition

The importance of governance for innovation: a theory of practice transition

Matthew Lockwood, Caroline Kuzemko, Catherine Mitchell, Richard Hoggett – University of Exeter


Understanding why and how it is that some countries are able to implement policies which lead to deeper and faster change in sustainable practices and outcomes is an important step in enabling an acceleration in the transition to a sustainable energy future. This paper presents a tentative, provisional framework for analysing energy system transition, differential outcomes and the reasons for them.

It suggests that energy system rules (in enabling or blocking change) and incentives (in making change economic or not) play an important role in shaping change. A provisional hypothesis is that the UK’s ability to make the transition to a sustainable energy system is constrained by the nature of its institutional system and policy paradigm; and because of this, a critical precondition for more innovation in the UK is the implementation of an appropriate governance system. A key insight is a need to understand ‘how and why’ policies are implemented, ‘how and why’ changes in practices and outcomes are driven, and the links between the two. A provisional Theory of Managed Energy Transition is put forward that seeks to: firstly identify the linkages of politics, actors and agency to the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of energy policy implementation and delivery; and secondly, relate these to changes in practice and outcomes. We need to understand what sets of ideas are more conducive to a sustainable transition and how interactions between the different groups can become more directed towards certain outcomes.

Our framework enables us to do this by linking actors and agency with our provisional concept of innovation. We see the energy system as constructed by interactions between three groups of actors: policy makers (politicians, civil servants, regulators etc); energy providers (energy resource firms, such as oil and gas companies, incumbent energy firms, such as generators, suppliers, etc; new entrants); and energy users (such as households and businesses). We should be able to characterise the current practices within these three areas. We should also be able to characterise what sort of practices we would expect a sustainable energy system to exhibit. In theory therefore, we can learn about the nature of sustainable energy transitions by looking at what is actually happening on the ground in terms of practice change and relating that practice change to the interactions between policy makers, energy providers and energy users, in turn linking that to the policy paradigm and geographical and historical resources which binds all together.

From this, we hope to identify how innovation and governance of these three areas influence the outcomes such as: reducing carbon; deploying technologies; enabling investment; supporting new business models and new entrants; involving customers; reducing demand; and increase affordability.

Presentation: download here – Lockwood – Panel 1 

Paper: download here – Panel 1 – Lockwood et al_The Importance of Governance for Innovation


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