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Integrated transitions toward sustainability : the case of water and energy in Israel

Teschner, Na'ama (2012) Integrated transitions toward sustainability : the case of water and energy in Israel. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Water and energy sectors encompass large infrastructural systems, face increased scarcities and have been argued to have locked-in structures. Questions of how technological breakthroughs occur and how the underlying policies and institutional structures change are therefore important for responding to socioeconomic pressures and to improve environmental sustainability. This thesis aims to re-theorise the interplay of technology, policies and discourses within sociotechnical regimes and to examine the merits of these relations from an intersectoral perspective. This dissertation combines insights from the literature on science and technology studies, policy dynamics and policy integration and uses the integrated approach to examine parallel and interrelated dynamics in the Israeli water and energy regimes, making use of the interpretative policy analysis methodology and a range of qualitative methods. The dissertation makes three analytical contributions. Firstly, the dissertation highlights how the power of technology in shaping and transforming policy regimes has been underestimated in the current literature about policy dynamics. The dissertation exemplifies this by the case of desalination technology which had the capacity to transform the Israeli water sector. I suggest that technological breakthroughs that rendered seawater desalination economically feasible, undermined long-lasting hydro-ideological support for agriculture, introduced new ideas about water abundance, and engendered changes in paradigms, institutional structures and constellation of actors. Desalination technology contributed to this shift by destabilizing the existing structure through re-framing and dis-placing important issues, such as environmental externalities, economic costs and hard political choices, to other policy sectors and levels of governance as well as reallocated them between politicians, bureaucrats and water professionals. Secondly, the dissertation argues that the focus of the sociotechnical transitions literature has been on structural changes with predefined objectives and suggests that a more fluid and agency-based ideas about discourses - as presented by discursive institutionalism - can provide contrast and complement. The dissertation exemplifies the usefulness of this cross-fertilisation by analysing the rise of four technological alternatives to current Israel's coal-based energy regime. I suggest that the regime is shifting away from the traditional scarcity discourse towards a new discourse on energy abundance. The new energy abundance discourse was created by policy networks, who promote natural gas, oil shale, nuclear energy and solar energy as energy alternatives although their mainstreaming still faces formidable uncertainties and various constraints. The findings also support the premise that a change from constructed scarcity of energy resources to their abundance potentially reconstructs socio-technical transitions, future pathways or technological trajectories and institutional arrangements at large. Thirdly, the dissertation examines how sectoral transitions may be coupled and technological regimes may co-evolve. The dissertation demonstrates that while transition management literature examines how long-term structural changes could be directed toward greater sustainability, it has, however, mostly taken a sectoral approach which neglects the potential interdependencies between sociotechnical changes and policy dynamics in different sectors. The thesis examines the water-energy nexus in Israel and suggests that transitions of the water and energy sectors in Israel are physically, spatially and financially coupled. Yet, inter-sectoral institutional structures, management apparatus and niche-induced innovations were found to be lacking integrative capacities, driven by an inherent strategy of supply- side management and around the unaltered, implicit, core belief in the need to secure independent and ultimately unlimited sources of water and energy. In practice, integrated transitions management could therefore play a crucial role in re-orienting trajectories in the water and energy sectors, re-designing transition arenas and articulating transition pathways. This could encourage technology-mediated policy realignments on the basis of more comprehensive and longer-term problem solving rather than on the opportunities technologies offer for problem avoidance or postponement. Further policy recommendations highlight the merits and pitfalls of greater cohesion in the policy arena, including the effectiveness of procedural tools such as the regulatory impact assessment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Geography (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.590458
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2016 12:24
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2016 12:24
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12752

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