Intermediaries in the energy transition: The invisible work of creating markets for sustainable technology solutions (TRIPOD)

TRIPOD is a new project funded by the Academy of Finland and led by Sampsa Hyysalo at Aalto University School of Art and Design. Consortium partners include Syke (Finnish Environment Institute), Aalto University School of Business, and Consumer Society Research Centre (CSRC), University of Helsinki. TRIPOD investigates the role of intermediation in energy transitions by specifying what work intermediation performs in different actor configurations and contexts. We focus on solutions for energy efficiency, distributed electricity generation, heating systems based on renewable energy sources, and the related solutions for timing of consumption and storage of electricity and/or heat. The objectives of TRIPOD are to

  1. Identify and assess the role of intermediaries in creating, channeling and coordinating market and broader societal demand for new low carbon technologies and services and in adapting these technologies to local contexts.
  2. Establish the influence of different intermediary organizations and forms of work on different types of energy innovation and energy transition processes.
  3. Examine how energy transition intermediaries come into being, establish their functional roles, evolve, and gain legitimacy.
  4. Compare intermediation in different contexts (between government and citizens, between energy and technology providers and users) and in different actor configurations (including or excluding certain market/societal actors) and organizational settings.
  5. Distinguish between generic aspects of intermediation in energy transitions, and aspects that are specific to particular contexts or configurations.

CSRC is in charge of sub-project 1, which buildings on case studies of intermediation in the interface between energy consumption and production. Contact: Eva Heiskanen ( ja Kaisa Matschoss (

Smart grid: Hope of hype?

Denmark is one of the countries investing the most in developing a “smart grid”. This paper unpacks one influential national vision of the smart grid to identify what kinds of expectations guide the work of smart grid innovators and how the boundaries of the smart grid are defined.  Our findings show that the smart grid hype embodies several implicit expectations that serve to guide research and investment and to attract new players into the field. On the basis of our analysis, European policymakers might consider how their (intentional or unintentional) choices serve to create or maintain certain boundaries in smart grid development: for example, an exclusive focus on electricity within the broader context of a sustainable energy system. As serious investment starts being made in the smart grid, concepts like the supergrid, flexible demand and a broader smart energy system will start competing with each other.

Lunde, M., Røpke, I.  & Heiskanen, E. (in press).Smart grid: hope or hype? Energy Efficiency, August 2015. Online:

Nudge and experimentation – appreciatively critical analysis of experiences

Experimentation and nudges are two topical buzzwords in Finland at the moment. Because of this, it seems appropriate to share some recent work that examines these concepts in an appreciatively critical way.

Nudging – a tool for sustainable behaviour? is a report for the Swedish EPA by Oksana Mont and Matthias Lehner from IIIEE Lund and Eva Heiskanen from the Consumer Society Research Centre. It examines the usefulness of nudges in established welfare states like Sweden (and Finland). The report is also available in Swedish. These  slides offer a short synopsis.

On the topic of experimentation, this article examines some recent experiences of experimentation in Finland – again from a appreciatively critical perspective. It shows that experiments are always performative. In order to serve as “proof of principle” and encourage people to persist in climate action, local low-carbon experiments cannot afford to fail.

Heiskanen, E, Jalas, M & Rinkinen J (2015) The local community as a low-carbon lab: Promises and perils. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 14: 149-164.