Dissertation: Transition to a low-carbon energy system is possible
Teresa Haukkala’s (M. Soc. Sc.) doctoral dissertation in the field of Organization and Management examines the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon energy system focusing especially on the introduction of solar photovoltaics (PV) in Finland. The study covers energy transitions of the past and present and suggests possible alternatives for the future energy system.
The climate change is a problem of both environment and sustainable development to which there seems to be no solutions. Due to the urgency of mitigating climate change, it is important to transition to a more sustainable energy system. This, however, has proven to be an increasingly difficult task. Renewable energy, which emits little to no greenhouse gasses, faces resistance and this is why it has not been easy to, for instance, increase the production of solar PV.
Haukkala has followed the development of solar energy since 2011. The research approaches the subject from the point of views of structure, agency and framing. In her study, Haukkala has also interviewed key actors in the fields of politics, industry, business, academics, organizations and civil society.
‘Solar energy cannot be the only source of energy in Finland, but it can be a part of a diverse energy palette and a substitute for fossil energy sources. Yet both the energy transition and the increase of solar PV have met with barriers concerning politics, businesses and consumers. The biggest barriers have resulted from the lack of political will and support policy, vested interests in the existing energy system, the competitiveness of solar PV as well as the general attitudes. These barriers can, however, be overcome with new policies, regulations and behaviour. The government should put focus on policies that support structural change’, says Haukkala.
‘Green-energy transition’ versus traditional coalition
In her study, Haukkala discovers the new situation regarding energy policy. This situation finds the spokespersons of ‘green-energy transition’ and the long-standing energy producers and the traditional coalition of large industrial corporations on opposite sides of the debate. The standing of both groups has been affected by the intensity with which they have argued for or against the use and support of solar energy. In recent years, the focus of the arguments has changed from the future energy system to financial opportunities and competitive status.
The study also pays attention to the increased collective motivation of the grass-roots actors and the civil society to advocate for change.
‘A recent example has been the climate marches that have mobilised children, the youth and everyone else, who are concerned about the climate change. This kind of a bottom-up movement can inspire significant changes in energy policy. For example, an energy transition took place in Germany in 2011 as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the years of civil society movement’, states Haukkala.
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