Acerca de

Sustainable Energy

The geography of diffusion of disruptive clusters of low-carbon and renewable energy innovations

2021-2025, Hoicka, C.E. (PI), collaborators: Berube, A., Brisbois, MC, Castleden, H., Graziano, M., Lewis, D., Lieu, J., Ramirez-Camargo, L, “Do disruptive renewable energy innovations in local contexts accelerate a just and democratic energy Transition?” Social Science and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant, $241, 052

Addressing climate change requires a rapid transition to renewable energy sources (RE). Depending on how a RE transition occurs, it can either address or exacerbate inequalities as they occur in local contexts. This transition is not simply about technological change, it is about societal transformation and the scale-up of innovations that disrupt the established ‘socio-technical’ system. Socio-technical systems are complex, multi-scalar systems that are resistant to change. These can be energy systems, transportation systems, or food systems. However, climate change is not the only societal challenge and an energy transition is not the only system transformation that RE can address.

Social science research is required to advance our knowledge of how to address inequalities and encourage widespread participation while advancing a RE transition to avoid climate disruption.

This proposed research seeks to:

  1. identify and analyze disruptive RE projects that are being planned and implemented in communities applying the concepts of RE clusters and RE transitions;

  2. understand their potential to be societally transformative and the associated factors;

  3. translate and communicate this knowledge to the communities.

This proposal addresses the research questions “Do innovation systems and local contexts interact to support disruptive social-technical innovations? What are the critical factors to consider? Do disruptive socio-technological innovations in local contexts accelerate just and sustainable energy transformation?”. The proposed research will investigate the transformative potential of RE using the conceptual frameworks of energy democracy, energy justice, and innovation systems. Disruptive innovations are only beginning to be connected to their role in energy justice and energy democracy. This research will provide an important contribution to this gap in knowledge by providing more clarity around how disruptive innovations can contribute to just and democratic renewable energy transitions.

2021-2026, Hoicka, C.E. (PI) Identifying the consequential risks, benefits, and socio-technical strategies of diffusion of innovations in a low-carbon energy transition. Ontario Early Researcher Award ER19-15-298, 2021-2026, $150,000. 

An energy transition is underway in Ontario, and in other provinces in Canada. The emergence of ‘smart grids’ — digitally enabled electricity infrastructure — and flexible technologies on the distribution grid are entering energy markets and systems globally and changing relationships between consumers and producers of energy. There are many benefits to the widespread adoption of these low-carbon innovations and an energy transition, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and economic and industrial policy goals of market creation and new business lines, and improved quality of life in Ontario. However, there are also negative consequences, such as rising costs or localized reduction of reliable energy. This research takes both a technical and social science lens to understand the risks and benefits of the widespread adoption of these low-carbon innovations, and will provide analysis on how to track innovations risks, benefits, and design interventions to increase the benefits and mitigate risks.

2021, Hoicka, C.E., Graziano, M., Zhao, Y. Comparing and combining regional and sustainability transitions approaches to analyze the emergence of clusters of renewable and low-carbon innovations, Smart Prosperity Institute, $10,000. 

Canada’s new climate action report outlines details for the electrification of transportation and transport corridors, massive expansion of a clean electricity system, $964 million over four years to “advance smart renewable energy and grid modernization projects to enable the clean grid of the future”, and commitment to the economy, equity, inclusion, communities, and the workforce. One important pathway to these goals is implementing clusters of renewable and low-carbon innovations, also called renewable energies industrial clusters, that can dramatically speed up the transition towards renewable energies. 

The objective of this project is to connect the fields of sustainability transitions, energy geography, and regional sciences, in order to answer real world policy questions of “how do renewable energies industrial clusters emerge, in what form, and how do they impact the renewable energy transition in different types of locations?” The analytical framework will identify important concepts and influences, will identify the range of factors that affect the emergence and form of renewable energies industrial clusters spatially that inform policy decisions, advance each field, and inform future analyses about renewable energy transitions. This analysis will provide practical insights into a resilient recovery and the equitable and inclusive aspects of a transition to a clean, low carbon economy; and help inform the selection, prioritization and financing of clean innovation strategies across sectors, sector specific pathways, and distributional impacts of existing or proposed low carbon and/or resilient recovery policies and programs.