Projects per year
The need to rapidly decarbonise energy systems is widely accepted, yet there is growing criticism of ‘top–down’, technocentric transition visions. Transitions are, such critics claim, unpredictable, contested, and comprise of multiple and competing perspectives. This paper opens up to diverse visions of energy transitions by studying a corpus of 12 visions produced across different ‘institutional settings’ of the state, business, science and technology, and civil society in the UK. We introduce a new analytical framework grounded in relational co-productionist perspectives in science and technology studies (STS) to comparatively analyse the similarities and differences of the visions in relation to four dimensions of sociotechnical transformation: meanings, knowings, doings, and organisings. Whilst research on energy transitions often focuses on dominant imaginaries within political cultures, regimes and centres of power, it is an explicit intention of this paper to also comparatively map the distributed, diverse and counter-hegemonic visions. The paper reveals that what is often presented as a primarily ‘technical’ transition is always normative in bringing forward particular forms of social and political order. Our analysis reveals important distinctions between more ‘centred’ and more decentred or ‘alternative’ imaginaries of the energy transition, differences which reveal the inherently political nature of energy futures. Visions which emerge from civil society settings are shown to be a key locus of diversity in sociotechnical imaginaries and tend to open up to alternative models of progress, social change, and the roles of publics. This emphasises the significant role played by the settings and the make-up of collective practices through which energy visions are co-produced. We suggest that mapping diverse visions to reveal their respective partialities, exclusions and sociopolitical dimensions in this way, can offer a more humble, reflexive, and responsible foundation for practices of future-making and sociotechnical transformations.
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