Abstract

Discourses surrounding the design, development, and implementation of contemporary energy innovations variously promise to enhance the reliability of the energy grid, incorporate renewable energy, enable low-carbon transitions, and lead to greater convenience and lower costs for customers. Such wide-ranging visions are constructed and reinforced by sociotechnical imaginaries, or collectively held social beliefs and values that shape and are shaped by innovation processes. In order to understand how national sociotechnical imaginaries interact with social and technological order within smaller locales, we comparatively investigate the development of energy innovations of smart grids and distributed generation in two United States regions – the Pacific Northwest and the Desert Southwest – and two metropolitan areas within those regions – Portland, Oregon, and Phoenix, Arizona. Our findings indicate that the multi-level governance of innovation in energy systems is shaped not only by imaginaries at the national level, but also through imaginaries at the regional level. Our cases of Portland and Phoenix illustrate how different socio-cultural and political-economic contexts interact with and produce variations of national sociotechnical energy imaginaries and how these in turn shape sociotechnical configurations of energy innovations, often as alternatives to national imaginaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFutures
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • Energy
  • Futures
  • Governance
  • Innovation
  • Publics
  • Sociotechnical imaginaries
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

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