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Mining solar and social innovation : exploring social innovation and the conditions that foster it in a Canadian, community-owned renewable energy project

Wilson, Luke Hamilton LU (2016) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20161
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract (Swedish)
As a primary driver of climate change, energy systems are often affected by the type of “self-perpetuation and lock-in” that characterize so-called ‘wicked problems’. Although it has a relatively
clean energy system, Canada still has provinces (e.g. Alberta, Saskatchewan) that possess carbon-intensive power grids, and provinces that have experienced minimal renewable energy development
other than hydroelectric (e.g. British Columbia). This thesis conceptualized socio-technical transition as a promising strategy for driving sustainable change in Western Canada’s energy system, and social
innovation in the form of community-owned energy, as the niche level ‘agent’ of that change. I utilized the case of the SunMine—a community-owned... (More)
As a primary driver of climate change, energy systems are often affected by the type of “self-perpetuation and lock-in” that characterize so-called ‘wicked problems’. Although it has a relatively
clean energy system, Canada still has provinces (e.g. Alberta, Saskatchewan) that possess carbon-intensive power grids, and provinces that have experienced minimal renewable energy development
other than hydroelectric (e.g. British Columbia). This thesis conceptualized socio-technical transition as a promising strategy for driving sustainable change in Western Canada’s energy system, and social
innovation in the form of community-owned energy, as the niche level ‘agent’ of that change. I utilized the case of the SunMine—a community-owned solar project in Kimberley, B.C.,—to fulfill my
research aim of examining the presence of core elements of social innovation in the project, and exploring the multi-level structural factors that shape these elements. Two components of the TEPSIE
social innovation framework are used; the first enables me to ‘test’ for the presence of five core elements, the second allows me to discuss the influence of regime and niche level ‘conditions’ on the
project. Data comes from a combination of semi-structured interviews and an analysis of various government, corporate, and municipal documents. My results show that the SunMine exhibits, to a degree, all five elements of social innovation. Key
findings reveal that the project: displayed many novel aspects, built new relationships and transformered existing ones, better utilized City assets, and created an effective cross-sectoral partnership. The exploration of structural conditions identified the importance of renewable support policies that specifically target community level projects, a problematic bias towards technological innovation in regime-level funding, and a positive relationship between social innovation and the
institutionalization of sustainability-related values and goals at the municipal (niche) level. Project stakeholders can help build momentum towards socio-technical transition, and thus, an energy
system with more community-owned renewable models, by engaging in active diffusion. This involves disseminating project information and forging partnerships to assist like-minded communities. However, various structural conditions may constrain this goal. Ultimately, this
research contributes to a deeper understanding of what social innovation in an energy system looks like, how various levels of society influence it, and how it can contribute to a socio-technical transition in the broader energy system. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Wilson, Luke Hamilton LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20161
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
social innovation, sustainability science, socio-technical transition, community-owned energy, Western Canada
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
No 2016:013
language
English
id
8880692
date added to LUP
2016-06-16 10:45:35
date last changed
2016-06-16 10:45:35
@misc{8880692,
  abstract     = {As a primary driver of climate change, energy systems are often affected by the type of “self-perpetuation and lock-in” that characterize so-called ‘wicked problems’. Although it has a relatively 
clean energy system, Canada still has provinces (e.g. Alberta, Saskatchewan) that possess carbon-intensive power grids, and provinces that have experienced minimal renewable energy development 
other than hydroelectric (e.g. British Columbia). This thesis conceptualized socio-technical transition as a promising strategy for driving sustainable change in Western Canada’s energy system, and social 
innovation in the form of community-owned energy, as the niche level ‘agent’ of that change. I utilized the case of the SunMine—a community-owned solar project in Kimberley, B.C.,—to fulfill my 
research aim of examining the presence of core elements of social innovation in the project, and exploring the multi-level structural factors that shape these elements. Two components of the TEPSIE 
social innovation framework are used; the first enables me to ‘test’ for the presence of five core elements, the second allows me to discuss the influence of regime and niche level ‘conditions’ on the 
project. Data comes from a combination of semi-structured interviews and an analysis of various government, corporate, and municipal documents. My results show that the SunMine exhibits, to a degree, all five elements of social innovation. Key 
findings reveal that the project: displayed many novel aspects, built new relationships and transformered existing ones, better utilized City assets, and created an effective cross-sectoral partnership. The exploration of structural conditions identified the importance of renewable support policies that specifically target community level projects, a problematic bias towards technological innovation in regime-level funding, and a positive relationship between social innovation and the 
institutionalization of sustainability-related values and goals at the municipal (niche) level. Project stakeholders can help build momentum towards socio-technical transition, and thus, an energy 
system with more community-owned renewable models, by engaging in active diffusion. This involves disseminating project information and forging partnerships to assist like-minded communities. However, various structural conditions may constrain this goal. Ultimately, this 
research contributes to a deeper understanding of what social innovation in an energy system looks like, how various levels of society influence it, and how it can contribute to a socio-technical transition in the broader energy system.},
  author       = {Wilson, Luke Hamilton},
  keyword      = {social innovation,sustainability science,socio-technical transition,community-owned energy,Western Canada},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Mining solar and social innovation : exploring social innovation and the conditions that foster it in a Canadian, community-owned renewable energy project},
  year         = {2016},
}