Dialectic tensions driving niche creation – A case study of a local energy system

Jussi Valta, Saku J. Mäkinen, Johanna Kirjavainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Local energy systems (LESs), such as energy communities and microgrids, are seen as significant contributors to the energy transition, but their creation requires contested institutional changes to the centralized energy regime. We explore the creation process of a groundbreaking LES project from the multi-level and dialectic perspectives. Our results show a tension-driven institutional change process that includes the dialectic perspective's four principles: institutional contradictions, praxis, social construction, and totality. Based on the learnings of the case study, we highlight the effect of institutional contradictions on incumbent actors’ agency, boundary spanners’ role in triggering praxis, and tensions in niche–regime interactions. We show with the case study that the dialectic perspective together with the multi-level perspective aid in understanding the creation process and further aid in designing future LES creation processes by providing normative descriptions of contradictions, tensions, and opportune solutions for them beforehand. We also discuss the limitations of the approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-111
Number of pages13
Early online dateDec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Dialectic process
  • Local energy systems
  • Multi-level perspective
  • Socio-technical transition

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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