Energy innovation and the sustainability transition

Matthew Hannon, Ronan Bolton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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The development and subsequent deployment of new energy technologies lies at the heart of energy system change, however a sustainable energy system transition demands much more than technological innovation. Transformational change across a myriad of social and technical dimensions, including policy, markets, culture, science and user preferences, are all required. It is these inter-connected domains that shape the way in which we satisfy consumers’ energy needs, such as warmth, light and mobility. Energy system change is highly complex and unpredictable given how these different dimensions co-evolve, simultaneously shaping and being shaped by one another. This can result in positive feedbacks between these system dimensions that ‘lock-in’ the existing fossil fuel based energy system and in turn ‘lock-out’ more environmentally-friendly alternatives. In this context this chapter employs a system-level perspective on energy innovation and transitions (see definitions in Box 9.1 below), where transformative change depends on a coordinated and long-term approach that treats the energy system as an interconnected, nested ‘whole’. To achieve this end there is a need for a suite of conceptual tools that offer insights into how and why energy system change is unfolding.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Energy Economics and Policy
Place of Publication[S.I.]
Number of pages75
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

Publication series

NameFundamentals and Applications for Engineers and Energy Planners


  • energy systems
  • clean energy
  • energy innovation


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