Enabling socio-technical transitions – electric vehicles and high voltage electricity grids as focal points of low emission futures
Abstract: Today humankind is facing numerous sustainability challenges that require us to question CO2 intensive practices like those present in the transport and energy sector. To meet those challenges, many countries have adopted ambitious climate targets. Achieving such targets requires an understanding of the wider socio-technical context of transitions. The aim of this licentiate thesis is therefore to analyse such socio-technical transitions towards low-emission futures enabled by the electrification of passenger cars and high voltage grid development.A combination of different transitions theories (for ex. Multi-level perspective and Technological innovation systems) and institutional theory has been used. To reach the aim paper I analyses the climate impacts of electric vehicles (EVs) and policy measures to achieve a breakthrough scenario for EVs. The results show that a mixture of short and long term policies are needed that take into account the technology development stage and behavioural aspects of EV adopters. Paper II addresses the need to include the high voltage transmission grid and its planning procedures as a central part of debates on transitions. Therefore the opportunities, challenges and reasons for conflict in the established regime are studied. The results show that in order to achieve a sustainable grid development regime, it is necessary to spend time on achieving legitimacy and social sustainability. The third paper uses semi-structured expert interviews and focuses on innovation dynamics for EV adoption. By focusing on dynamics instead of single policy measures, it is possible to grasp interactions within a niche, but also in between a niche, regime and landscape. The results show that strong initial technology legitimacy was needed to start substantial innovation dynamics. This could be further strengthened with a strong and broad coalition of actors. Both those factors led, if present, to an improved variety and match of policy instruments.As such this thesis has shown that transitions are not just about technology or policy instruments as such but about the dynamics and processes needed to enable them. This can be relevant in other transitions that otherwise may underestimate the importance of these components.
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