The global energy system through a prism of change : The oil & gas industry and the case of the Arctic

Abstract: The energy industry as a whole and the oil & gas industry in particular is experiencing changes under the influence of a variety of trends and the changing needs of society. Current social, economic, environmental and climate challenges are raising sharp questions for the established principles of energy production and consumption, increasingly arguing for sustainable trajectories in the development of the global energy system. There are significant international efforts to improve energy sustainability, and powerful trends are being established. However, the change in the global energy system is happening at a slower pace.The oil & gas industry has been a substantial part of the global energy system for decades. While it has significantly contributed to global development and enabled industrialization, it has also affected the environment. Currently, the role of the oil & gas industry is shifting, while it continues to satisfy more than half of global energy demand. Simultaneously, the relationship between the oil & gas industry and the sustainable development of the global energy system is largely overlooked. This thesis questions the validity of such neglect, and raises the importance of exploring sustainable development of the global energy system with its relationship to the oil & gas industry.Through the perspectives of sustainability transitions and industrial dynamics domains, this thesis aims to explore the role of the ‘socio-technical regime’ in sustainability transitions of socio-technical systems. This thesis focuses on three particular aspects: (1) the factors of change in the regime; (2) the way the regime responds to these factors of change; and (3) the relationship between the sustainable development of the socio-technical system and the regime. This thesis is based on two interrelated studies, devoted to certain aspects of change within the oil & gas industry, and an in-depth investigation of the case of Arctic offshore oil and natural gas resources exploitation.The thesis provides an insight into the critical aspects of change within the global energy system through analysis of the oil & gas industry, and reveals an understanding of how sustainable change in the global energy system can be facilitated. From a theoretical perspective, this thesis contributes to sustainable energy transitions and industrial dynamics literature on sustainable change of large socio-technical systems with an emphasis on the regime. Theoretical implications underline the need to revise the existing links and connections between socio-technical system levels in order to facilitate change, show the need for typologies of factors of change, and suggest more attention to qualities and capacities of regimes. Finally, this thesis employs system thinking and a multidisciplinary approach in energy related and sustainability transitions research.From a practical perspective, this thesis provides analytical frameworks, tools and concepts to be useful for policy makers, strategy consultants, governmental organizations, and industry, as well as suggests some insights into the development and change in the global energy system.

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