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Towards renewable energy?
Why the energy transition should have a place
Dr. Christian Zuidema
Spatial Planning & Environment
Faculty of Spatial Sciences
University of Groningen
1| Issue
2| Energietransition
3| Area-based innovation
4| Questions & Discussion
1| Issue
Wat we al weten
We zijn zwaar verslaafd aan fossiele energie
Three core issues
Fossil fuels are not renewable and limited
We will eventually run out of them, and then what?
Three core issues
Climate change is an increasingly big issue to
which the burning of fossil fuels is a big contributor
We should rather use other resources
Three core issues
Geopolitical relations matter in interdependency
On whom do ‘we’ want to depend
Problem …
› Obama; Oval Office Speech 15-06-2010;
“For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily
accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked
and talked about the need to end America’s century-long
addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed
to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge
But it is difficult…
› After all:
1| We have high needs for energy
2| There are huge economic interests
3| There are important and vested interests in power
4| There are existing investments
5| We are largely unaware
6| We do not pay the real costs
1| We need lots of energy
We have high and rising
needs for energy
User products
Netherlands per person:
- 208 GJ per year
- That is 5.000 liter oil
- Or 5.400 m3 gas
But it is difficult
Fortune 2012 – biggest companies in the world
1 Royal Dutch Shell
the Netherlands
2 ExxonMobil
United States
3 Walmart
United States
4 BP
United Kingdom
5 Sinopec
6 China National Petroleum Corporation
7 State Grid Corporation of China
8 Chevron
United States
9 ConocoPhillips
United States
10 Toyota
But it is difficult
Richest countries in the world (2013 Worldbank)
3| Vested stakes (power)
Example: Dutch government
Nuon (about 25%)
Delta (Zeeland)
Gasterra: State (50%), Exxon (25%), Shell (25%)
4| Existing investments
4| Existing investments
5| We are largely unaware
5| We are largely unaware
22 kilograms
61 kilograms
0,2 kilograms
6| We do not pay the real costs
Health and human lives
Taxes and subsidies
“The benefits of strong, early action on climate change
outweigh the costs.”
-Climate change will affect world GDP to 5-20% a year
-We need about 1% of the global GDP to avoid the worst
The real challenge
Sense of Urgency
Willingess to Change
Willingness to Act
Ability to Act
Ability to Change
Sense of Control
The real challenge
› “Problems are a complex web of interrelated actors and
networks, both in a physical, economic, social and
institutional sense.”
› “Apart from limitations to fully oversee and grasp such a
complex web, ownership and power are fragmented,
limiting the capacity of any actor to alter them”
(De Boer & Zuidema 2013)
2| Transitions
Path-dependent / Lock-in
Dynamic equilibrium
A system that has found a state in which it stays
relatively stable (between certain borders). If it is also
resistance to change: path-dependency & lock-in
The idea of a socio-technical or societal ‘transition’:
A fundamental transformation from one dynamic
equilibrium to another
Industrial revolution
Demografic transition
Involves processes of self-organisation and co-evolution,
involving the linking of processes of change in various
societal, economic, and technological domains
This system largely
changes by itself
Idea of planning
by exerting control
Transition ‘management’
Socio-technical landscape: common practices, culture,
values, opinions, beliefs, assumptions, etc. - changes
Regimes: the existing systems of regulations, laws,
infrastructure, power, contracts, organisations, etc. –
tends to resist change
Niches: the place where innovations take place in
relative isolation – typically on a local/individual scale –
so bottom-up developments – more rapid changes
Transition ‘management’
Stimulate innovation in ‘niches’
Allow for multiple developments (not rigid)
Make regimes more flexible so they can change
Hope: slowly changing societal and cultural conceptions
and successful niche activities (innovations/lessons) can
alter the regime
But this remains fairly abstract… what can we do in
-Change societies and economies?
-Change institutions?
-Change the technology and physical landscapes?
-What about (spatial) planning then?
An example: The Netherlands
CBS (2012)
An example: The Netherlands
% hernieuwbaar
An example: The Netherlands
2011: 4,3%
2012: 4,5%
2013: 4,5%
An example: The Netherlands
2011: 4,3%
2012: 4,5%
2013: 4,5%
Why is it so hard?
Space forces us asking questions
Can NL be 100% sustainable?
Should we import sus-energy?
Should we focus on other experitise?
NIMBY (not in my back yard)
So… Transitions?
Rotmans (2011):
More than top-down by central government; not just a focus on
Hajer (2012):
Use social innovation and entrepreneurship – people are a key
Understand the local
3| Area-based innovation
Think spatially
• Energysystems are not isolated from our society and
physical landscape
• Innovations (in niches) also do not occur in isolation
• Any sense of co-evolution requires the interaction
between various physical or social systems – so also
between the energy system and its context
Framing the energy system as embedded in the physical
and socio-economic landscape
-> Integrated energy landscape
1 Understanding the challenge
Current (recent…) fossil fuel based energy system:
- The energy system is physically and institutionally largely
seperated from other spatial and societal functions
Limited visibility (underground & far away)
Energy is ‘footloose’ = Space is implicit
Economic affairs dominates arena
Limited societal actor involvement
1 Understanding the challenge
System based on renewables will be different :
Visible (above the ground and more space needed)
Closer to people (in and around houses or towns)
Towards the ‘prosumer’
Energy security – behaviour or space?
Involves many societal actors and subsectors
2 Responding to the challenge
The area-based niche:
- Intergation with the local physical/spatial landscape is
crucial (potentials, limits, scources, embedding,
transport, storage)
- Integration with the local socio-economic landscape is
crucial (support, synergies, investments, producersconsumers)
2 Responding to the challenge
Thinking spatially and seeing energy as a visible element
in the landscape
Connections between functions, land uses, actors,
interests are all literally becoming visible
Local qualities and identities can be connected
Integrated energy landscape:
Helps for understanding where to do what?
Integrated energy landscape:
Helps for understanding where to do what?
Integrated energy landscape:
Helps to see how the energy-system might be
integrated in the physical-spatial and socio-economic
landscape | Regional development
Integrated energy landscape:
Helps to see how the energy-system might be
integrated in the physical-spatial and socio- economic
landscape | Identity & Participation
With the development of
institutional & social capital
- Networks
- Partnerships
- Local sustainable energy
- Institutional barriers become
Integrated energy landscape:
Provides direction to policies
Not monofunctional ‘energy’ but an integrated vision
Not one sub-sector, but a broad societal endeavor
Relation local context crucial
Top-down and bottom-up
• The framing of a ‘niche’ within ‘transition thinking’
should include ‘area-based’ innovations and practices
• Thinking spatially helps us identify linkages between
societal subsystems, both in terms of barriers
(allocation) and opportunities (synergie)
• Thinking spatially helps us understand the problem of
shifting to a sustainable energy system and provides
direction towards a response
4| Questions & Discussion
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