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The social power grid: The role of institutions for decentralizing the electricity grid
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Future Energy Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1276-6647
2020 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The world’s existing electricity grids face several challenges if they are to continue to provide a stable supply in the future. Aging electricity grids and the massive implementation of renewable sources require a different flexibility and robustness of future grids. Large amounts of renewable sources are implemented locally and on a small scale, increasing pressure on distribution grids to manage variable generation and bi-directional power flows. A decentralized electricity system includes both new technological designs as well as social re-organizations where prosumers become more prominent in the development and responsibilities of the electricity system. The existing centralized electricity system is fundamentally different from the decentralized, and the transformation requires an institutional framework which support the logics of decentralized technologies and organizations. Some technologies which are relevant for a decentralized electricity system include solar PV and MGs. The aim of the thesis is to investigate how the transformation toward a decentralized electricity system affects and is affected by informal institutions among relevant actors, specifically prosumers, and formal institutions related to the existing electricity system. To guide the aim this research uses a conceptual framework stemming from the theoretical field of sustainability transitions with a special emphasis on institutions. The results show that a wide variety of experienced values enhances the positive experiences with solar PV technology and thus prosumers increase their engagement and responsibilities in their own electricity system. Moreover, the values are used to enhance the positive narrative of the niche and thereby increase the attractiveness for external actors. In the formative developing field of community MGs, institutions play an important role. Informal institutions shape the formal institutional development, which also influences the informal institutions in return, by enhancing opportunities for certain groups, such as the energy democracy movement, to reach out with their message. Thus, it is concluded that informal institutions play a significant role in the development of a decentralized electricity system, affecting several niche development parameters and influencing the initial trajectories to further develop. Moreover, it is concluded that institutional developments are crucial for the development of community MGs and that informal institutional developments within communities are shaping the formal institutional developments in the sector.    

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2020. , p. 34
Series
Mälardalen University Press Licentiate Theses, ISSN 1651-9256 ; 292
National Category
Engineering and Technology Energy Systems
Research subject
Energy- and Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-47843ISBN: 978-91-7485-466-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-47843DiVA, id: diva2:1427459
Presentation
2020-06-08, Högskolan Dalarna, Borlänge, 09:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-05-04 Created: 2020-04-29 Last updated: 2020-05-11Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The role of values for niche expansion: the case of solar photovoltaics on large buildings in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The role of values for niche expansion: the case of solar photovoltaics on large buildings in Sweden
2020 (English)In: ENERGY SUSTAINABILITY AND SOCIETY, ISSN 2192-0567, Vol. 10, no 1, article id 7Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background Solar photovoltaic (PV) plants can contribute to the transformation of the electricity system in Sweden not only by adding capacity, but also by forming new decentralized ownership structures and involving new actors. This article focuses on solar PV plants on larger buildings, which represent a significant share of the installed capacity (although the total capacity is still very low in Sweden) and which have a good future potential. We are interested in the reasons owners of large buildings have for investing in solar PV plants, despite the fact that they face a complex regulatory situation. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to identify added values from solar PV plants for large buildings and to see how these values contribute to the ongoing expansion of the solar PV niche in Sweden. We use sustainability transitions as the theoretical point of departure and focus particularly on the role of values in an expanding niche. Data was collected via 15 semi-structured interviews, mainly with large building owners. It provides an interesting empirical case of the pioneers within the actor group of large building owners who potentially can play an important role in the expansion of solar PV technology in Sweden. Theoretically, the article contributes to the sustainable transition research field by demonstrating how values are developed and affect the niche-regime interplay. Results The findings demonstrate that owning a solar PV plant adds values such as sustainability, fair cost, and induced innovativeness. These values have an effect on niche expansion by contributing for example to the development of a social network, new role development, positive niche narrative, and niche empowerment. Conclusions We conclude that the broad set of values added by solar PV plants on large buildings increases the desire and enhances the positive experience to take on a new role development. Furthermore, we conclude that added values contribute to developing a social identity which is important when expanding the social network around the niche. Finally, we conclude that added values shape the positive niche narrative among niche advocates and give direction for policy development related to the niche.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BMC, 2020
Keywords
Solar photovoltaics, Sustainability transition, Values, Niche expansion, Large buildings
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-47156 (URN)10.1186/s13705-020-0239-7 (DOI)000511922500001 ()2-s2.0-85081112052 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2020-02-27 Created: 2020-02-27 Last updated: 2020-04-29Bibliographically approved
2. Unpacking the complexity of community microgrids: A review of institutions’ roles for development of microgrids
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unpacking the complexity of community microgrids: A review of institutions’ roles for development of microgrids
2020 (English)In: Renewable & sustainable energy reviews, ISSN 1364-0321, E-ISSN 1879-0690, Vol. 121, article id 109690Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Community microgrids implemented in existing electricity grids can meet both development targets set out in the Paris agreement: 1. mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through increased implementation of renewable energy sources, and 2. to adapt to climate related disturbances and risk of catastrophes. Community microgrids are, however, complex to implement and institutional change is needed to reach their full potential. The purpose of this article is to review existing literature and analyze institutional developments influencing the growth of community microgrids. The literature describes a concentration of microgrid activities in specific regions: USA, EU, Asia and Australia. Varying reasons for implementing community microgrids were found in the different regions but similar institutional developments occurred, albeit with differing emphasis due to contextual specificities. Formal directions do however influence informal institutions even though their aims differ. Power utilities stand out as a critical actor and both formal and informal institutions put pressure on utilities to update their traditional business models. This article illustrates how informal and formal institutions play a significant role in the growth of community microgrids in existing electricity grids and provide interesting examples which can be utilized by policymakers. Microgrid development is still in a formative phase and further institutional change in the form of updated regulations is needed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier Ltd, 2020
Keywords
Community energy, Community microgrid, Energy system transformation, Microgrid, Socio-technical change, Sustainability transition, Gas emissions, Greenhouse gases, Renewable energy resources, Micro grid, Socio-technical changes, Electric power transmission networks
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-46925 (URN)10.1016/j.rser.2019.109690 (DOI)000512410200017 ()2-s2.0-85077921856 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2020-01-31 Created: 2020-01-31 Last updated: 2020-04-29Bibliographically approved

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