STS - conferences, IST2012

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Microgeneration in New Homes: Transition opportunity or transitory non-starter?
Hannah Catherine James, Timothy J Foxon, William F Gale

Last modified: 2012-03-22


This paper takes a whole systems approach in identifying the major drivers and barriers for including microgeneration technologies in new low carbon homes: demonstrating the use of the multi-level framework in conceptualising complex systems which evolve along heterogeneous timescales.

Pressures upon the incumbent energy provision regime in the United Kingdom (UK) are giving rise to several different potential pathways towards a transition to a more decentralised system for domestic energy provision. New build provides opportunities for more radical changes to building fabric than retrofit, so new houses present a good opportunity for the emergence of niches for microgeneration to challenge the dominant centralised electricity generation regime.

Using empirical data from a series of semi-structured interviews with a range of UK stakeholders in the fields of construction and energy management, emerging niches and pathways for microgeneration in new houses are characterised and evaluated in light of the major drivers and barriers identified. Here, a coevolutionary approach is used to examine the ways in which institutions, businesses and consumers shape and are shaped by the transition process. In addition to microgeneration technologies themselves, non-technical innovations such as new business models and multi-scale energy distribution methods are emerging in niches. However, current UK policies fail to recognise the plurality of these emerging pathways, and there is a widespread expectation amongst stakeholders that current policies will be not sufficient to overcome prevailing practices in the energy and housing sectors in order to stimulate a transition to decentralised domestic supply.

UK policies for reducing emissions from new build homes are evaluated, with suggested interventions for transition management arising from the interviews and from literature. Comparisons are drawn with other countries where the transition to decentralised domestic energy is further along, in an attempt to identify elements of successful transition management in the domestic energy sector.