Work in progress: a dissertation on debating energy transitions

“I believe that greater co-operation across society is needed for a successful energy transition.” Ben van Beurden, CEO, Shell
“A future renewable energy supply is no longer science fiction, but work in progress” Greenpeace, The Energy [R]evolution 2015

We have come to a point when politicians, business executives and environmental organizations are all saying the same thing: we are facing an energy transition, a dramatic change in the ways in which energy is produced and consumed. This refers to the rapid growth in renewable and distributed energy (IRENA) and ensuing technological and societal changes.

Change can be an inspiring object of inquiry for researchers, as it presents something new and exciting. At the same time, we run the risk of paying less attention to the things that do not change – or even resist change. In addition to analyzing change, it is necessary to look at the politics of upholding current unsustainable practices.

In my doctoral dissertation I study how the relationship between stability and change is debated in energy policy discussions in Finland. The analysis spans energy policy debates in parliament, local government, civil society, media and academia. What energy policy is thought to be, over what time it is governed and how policy changes are thought to happen affect the ways energy policy is engaged with.

As seen in the above quotes, at first glance an energy transition may seem to be indisputable, ongoing, work in progress. This may deflect us from the point that energy transitions are also political, disputed and debated. Developments in renewable and distributed energy are social processes that alter existing relations.

In this blog, my contributions will examine the knowledge and politics of energy, technology and the environment. More to follow!

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About Kamilla Karhunmaa

Kamilla Karhunmaa is a doctoral student in the Environmental Policy Research Group at the University of Helsinki. Her PhD examines the debates on change and stability in energy policy and transitions in Finland. Kamilla has an MSc in Social and Public Policy from Helsinki University and a BSc in Environmental Policy from London School of Economics and Political Science. Kamilla is interested in knowledge, expertise and future imaginaries in environmental policy. She has previously worked on climate and development issues at Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku.