STS - conferences, IST2012

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Governing transitions through innovation diffusion – A community energy perspective from the UK
Colin Nolden

Last modified: 2012-03-19


Across a wide range of renewable energy technologies, particularly at the ‘community’ scale, energy policy and regulation have fairly recently (re-)gained political importance in the UK. Huge interest in the incentives provided by the Feed-in Tariff, and to a lesser extent by the Renewables Obligation, reflects both the potential for unlocking local investment potential in energy supplies and the desire to reduce the dependency on increasingly volatile energy supply chains. However, the decentralisation not only of generation capacity but also of benefits associated with energy generation requires a more strategic and wide ranging framework to enable the public to contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy by tapping into the development of local supply security and by localising energy related income streams.

This paper analyses the consequences of risk and uncertainty in the governance of small-scale renewable energy transitions through energy policy and regulation. It also highlights the difficulty the UK is experiencing in developing a coherent framework capable of providing institutional arrangements beyond the level of niche innovation. At the same time, the UK is running the risk of retaining a comparatively small amount of its expenditure on decarbonisation, particularly the diffusion of renewable energy technologies, both nationally and locally. In order to appreciate the potential and possibilities, comparisons are drawn to other European countries, particularly to Germany, in light European energy market integration.