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New paper highlights benefits of a more systemic approach to energy demand reduction

Radical innovations are needed to achieve a transition to a low carbon economy but policy makers need to take a new approach to the way they think about innovation say researchers at the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) in a new paper published in Energy Research & Social Science.

The paper written by Frank Geels , Tim Schwanen, Steven SorrellKirsten Jenkins and Benjamin Sovacool argues that policy makers have tended to focus on single technologies and economic viability, but other factors – such as wider systems, culture, politics and uncertainty – will also affect whether or not a new innovation is ultimately able to break through into the mainstream.

The paper describes a “socio-technical approach” and helps expose several important characteristics of low carbon innovation. These include:

  • Systemic change: the impact of changes in consumer practices, business models and organisational arrangements (as well as technological developments)
  • Cultural change: the need to create positive discourses around innovations.
  • New policies and political struggle: the need to build supportive coalitions around new innovations.
  • Uncertainty: the challenges of governance in an unpredictable world.

The paper, titled ‘Reducing energy demand through low carbon  innovation: A sociotechnical transitions perspective and thirteen research debates‘ also presents thirteen key debates within the literature on socio-technical transitions that are relevant for energy demand reduction, grouping them under three themes: emergence, diffusion and impact. Projects at CIED investigate all three of these areas.

Read more about CIED research themes.

Read the full paper.