Energy innovation and sustainability transitions in China: Building energy efficiency and renewable energy

Abstract: The assumption underlying this thesis is that both technological development and institutional and structural change are required to achieve a more sustainable building sector in China. Earlier literature has taken an approach based on the technological innovation system (TIS) to evaluate and understand the dynamics of technology development and change processes. However, fewer studies have examined the institutional and structural facets of socio-technical systems. By studying three different technologies relevant to the building sector—passive houses, district heating, and zero-energy buildings—this thesis aims to understand the system structure and dynamics of the innovation system and sustainability transitions in the Chinese building sector. It applied a TIS approach, together with other theoretical perspectives to complement the lack of understanding of external context in TIS studies. This thesis concludes with policy options for China and contributes to the existing literature on innovation systems and sustainability transition studies. Empirically, it enhances the conventional policies by offering a set of systemic policy instruments, including the deliberate inclusion of innovation systems and sustainability transitions perspectives into the policy making processes, encouraging broad participation in governance, and addressing integration issues between formal and informal institutions. A further contribution is that the selected technologies are analyzed from a socio-technical systems perspective for the first time in China. Methodologically, this thesis contributes to TIS studies by applying a broader perspective to the analysis of emerging technologies in the Chinese context. An improved understanding of the system structure and dynamics in relation to technology development is a starting for, beneficial discussions and debates about strategies for a more sustainable building sector in China.

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