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Physical and institutional challenges of low-carbon infrastructure transitions: constraints and potential solutions

Roelich, Katy Ellen (2014) Physical and institutional challenges of low-carbon infrastructure transitions: constraints and potential solutions. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

There is growing recognition that the United Kingdom’s ageing infrastructure systems are unable to deliver the radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. As such, there is an imperative to transform our infrastructure systems towards alternatives that deliver services reliably but within environmental limits. There are significant challenges to achieving this transformation but most current analysis focusses on the technical and economic challenges of infrastructure transition. This thesis examines two under-studied challenges to low-carbon infrastructure transition: one principally physical; the constraints posed by the disruption in supply of critical materials embedded in low-carbon energy technologies; and one institutional; the constraints to alternative modes of infrastructure operation from current policy and regulation in water and energy infrastructure. It aims to not only characterise these constraints but also to identify policy responses to alleviate constraints. The two constraints differ greatly in character and contrasting methods were used to analyse the nature and scale of each constraint. Material criticality constraints were examined using a quantitative, indicator-based method developed in this thesis to dynamically assess the risk of critical material disruption to low-carbon electricity generation. Policy and regulatory constraints were analysed using theory building from case study analysis to identify the mechanisms by which development of alternative modes of operation were constrained by policy and regulation. Despite the differing scale and nature of the constraints, there are some striking similarities in the potential policy responses to constraints. The results of both analyses emphasize the importance of diversity in the future infrastructure system, the need for a more targeted approach to policy and stress the need for integrated action across policy areas. The dual focus on understanding and responding to constraints forced a balance between dealing with complexity and enabling action. This highlighted the importance of adaptive policy, which takes action in the face of uncertainty but is able to modify its course as system understanding develops.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Infrastructure; transitions; low carbon; governance; critical materials
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds) > Sustainability Research Institute (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.632947
Depositing User: Dr Katy E Roelich
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2015 16:12
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2015 13:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7163

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