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Socio-Technical Transitions and Infrastructure Networks: the cases of electricity and heat distribution in the UK

Bolton, Ronan Patrick Gerard (2011) Socio-Technical Transitions and Infrastructure Networks: the cases of electricity and heat distribution in the UK. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

There is a growing recognition that current energy systems are unsustainable and require fundamental restructuring. While this is a significant engineering challenge it is not a matter of replacing one set of technologies with another. Technologies are embedded in a wider set of political, social and economic institutions which means that the transition from one energy system to another also requires an understanding of the interactions between the technical and non-technical. This thesis contributes to knowledge in this area by paying specific attention to energy distribution networks; the pipes and wires which deliver our energy services. It is argued that existing approaches to the study of transitions in energy systems have largely black-boxed the network components, tending to concentrate on production and demand. However, infrastructure networks have unique technical and institutional characteristics which require a more systematic treatment. Therefore the aim of the thesis is to make more visible the interplay between actors, institutions and technologies in reproducing and transforming energy distribution networks. For this purpose a novel analytical framework is developed which draws from economics and science and technology studies and incorporates insights from the governance literature. The framework is applied to the cases of electricity and heat distribution in the UK. It is found that following the liberalisation of energy systems, the governance of distribution networks has been siloed from the mainstream energy regime which has focused on promoting competition in other segments of the value chain. Therefore efforts to decarbonise energy supply in the UK have tended to be market based with a short term focus, rather than integrated solutions which recognise the role that flexible distribution networks can play in this transition. A number of policy recommendations are made which inform debates surrounding the development of local heat infrastructures and the reconfiguration of electricity distribution systems

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds) > Sustainability Research Institute (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2012 12:09
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2176

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