How can the transition to sustainability succeed through changes and innovations in socio-technical systems?
Four papers, co-written by researchers at UNEP DTU Partnership, are part of answering that question in the International Sustainability Transitions Conference 2021, which is taking place 5-8 October.
The conference is organized by the Sustainability Transitions Research Network. A network comprising of more than 1500 international researchers from various disciplines and produces more than 500 publications in specialist journals every year
The research network and the annual conference address the question of how the transition to sustainability can succeed through co-evolutionary changes and innovations in socio-technical systems.
The four papers will be available in the conference proceedings, and cover the following subjects:
Mobilising key resources
The first paper entitled Virtual linkages in socio-technical niche formation elaborates on how information and communication technology (ICT) can support socio-technical transition by facilitating exchanges between geographically dispersed actors, enabling coordination and the mobilisation of key resources.
The paper emphasises the roles of virtual linkages in niche formation processes as a relevant topic for future research and introduces the contours of a conceptual framework that can be applied and refined through further study. It also includes methodological reflections on how best to do this and uses evidence from the niche for locally manufactured small wind turbines.
Energy transition and economic development
The paper entitled Learning from energy transitions in the global south: linking the energy transition and economic development examines the way the state sets up rules and institutional arrangements that shape the way public and private investments flow into renewable energy technologies in ways that drive the energy transition.
The accelerated deployment of large scale renewable energy in the global south has been achieved via auctions with, international energy companies playing a key role. It is an energy transition pathway that is fundamentally different from earlier energy transition pathways experienced in Europe, so the ‘sustainability transition’ frameworks that worked for the European context cannot fully grasp the energy transitions emerging in the global South. The extent to which international linkages in terms of multinational companies can provide options for local economic and industrial development are key questions being addressed in this paper, and a new framework to investigate the relationship between the energy transition and economic development in the global south is proposed.
Decentralisation in the energy transition
The paper, Decentralised energy futures, examines the different options and visions revolving around the question of whether the electricity system should be centralised or decentralised. In transition, research decentralisation is seen as both a driver and an outcome of the unfolding processes of digitalisation, electrification, and democratisation.
The transition of the electricity system towards a system based on renewable energy faces a number of uncertainties as to how the future system will or should be organised. The aim of this paper and subsequent dialogue session at the conference is to debate different visions of decentralisation in a structured way and shed light on where visions are really different and why and where visions are not as far apart as they may seem.
The green potential of social practices
The paper, the green transformation potential of social practices takes stock of the emerging body of literature about the potential of social practices with a particular focus on how such practices are connected in bundles, complexes and constellations hindering or enabling transformative change. The paper looks at the potential of social practice studies to open up new perspectives on green transformations and help design effective policy strategies. It scrutinizes the literature on spatio-temporal organisation within five fields of social practices: working, dwelling, mobility, eating and recreation practices, and looks at how such a perspective can help in achieving sustainable transformations.