Socio-Technical Transition toward Energy Community Ecosystems: A Dialectic View of Their Emergence and Institutionalization

Tutkimustuotos: VäitöskirjaCollection of Articles


Promising innovation ecosystems are emerging 1n the energy field as decarbonization efforts are accelerating worldwide. One prominent area that is being developed is energy communities (ECs), which help individual actors cooperate in energy consumption and production, enable value creation from flexibility and integration of different energy carriers, and support energy democratization through the local governance of energy systems. ECs require a new kind of collaboration between new entrants and incumbents, as well as between the public and private sectors. However, the transition toward ECs is not straightforward, as it requires changes in the rules, technologies, and actor networks of the incumbent centralized energy system. ECs are also value-driven projects, distinguishing them from the incumbent energy business logic.

This thesis aims to examine these challenges and find solutions for them. The main research question is as follows: How do energy community ecosystems institutionalize? This question is divided into three parts. First, the thesis studies the triggers for the emergence of ECs, as they clearly require multi-level support. Second, it investigates internal formation within ECs. Third, it explores their external institutionalization, referring to the broader socio-political developments that support ECs. These questions are answered using a qualitative research approach. The data collection is conducted via interviews, workshops, and available secondary resources. The data analysis is done through process and thematic analyses. The articles in the thesis include conceptual analyses, a literature review, two multiple case studies, and two single case studies. The thesis utilizes theoretical frameworks from socio-technical transition studies, innovation ecosystems literature and institutional theory.

The results of this work show that institutional contradictions play important roles in the emergence of EC ecosystems. An interesting dynamic compared to what is found in the transitions literature is that the case studies show how certain incumbents take active roles in EC creation. They consider ECs as answers to different disruptions in their practices and future plans. These disruptions stem from the landscape or regime level, even outside the energy regime. These include the development of incumbent technologies against decline, unwanted urbanization, potential issues in wind energy legitimacy, and sustainable management of city growth. Although the triggers of EC projects initiate sensemaking at the local niche level, the gap between sensemaking and action, called praxis, is typically filled with macro-level incentives. 1n the case studies of this thesis, such incentives included new European-level directives, grants for investments and feasibility studies, and sustainability targets.

Once the projects are initiated, the internal formation of the ECs begins. This phase includes solving practical issues, such as designing technologies, rules, and tariffs. The dialectic perspective adopted in this thesis helps in understanding that the actor roles in emerging EC ecosystems are dynamic and steered by actors' institutional logics, interests, and power relations. The external institutionalization of ECs is a question of balancing the challenges and opportunities that ECs bring. Although they enable renewable energy and flexibility deployment, their institutionalization to the incumbent regime includes uncertainties regarding network tariffs, taxes, and ownership models. 1n practice, the decentralization of the energy regime happens in several ways, for example by having only one local energy operator and creating large property boundaries. The possible unintended consequences of such decisions are discussed.

Overall, this thesis proposes that the successful creation of EC ecosystems is driven by the capability of integrating dialectics into strategy making and creating hybrid structures in which different institutional logics meet. This principle applies to company strategy development, ecosystem orchestration, and policy design. The theoretical contribution of this work comes from exploring how socio-technical transitions can be explained with different theories in a complementary fashion.
ISBN (elektroninen)978-952-03-2623-4
TilaJulkaistu - 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Artikkeliväitöskirja


NimiTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (painettu)2489-9860
ISSN (elektroninen)2490-0028


Sukella tutkimusaiheisiin 'Socio-Technical Transition toward Energy Community Ecosystems: A Dialectic View of Their Emergence and Institutionalization'. Ne muodostavat yhdessä ainutlaatuisen sormenjäljen.

Siteeraa tätä