Local projects for sustainable energy: exploring the nature of success

Collins, Beck (2014) Local projects for sustainable energy: exploring the nature of success. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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Exploring the Nature of Success in Local Projects for Sustainable Energy

This research presents an understanding of the nature of success, and the problematic nature of local projects for sustainable energy. Sustainable energy is a critical issue in the UK to alleviate climate change, energy insecurity and energy poverty. Literature is reviewed from three different disciplines; socio-technical systems, behaviour change, and elements of planning literature including governance, communities and sustainability. The review demonstrates that success for such projects is difficult to achieve because energy is provided through an embedded sociotechnical system which being inert is resistant to change; because energy behaviour is complex and hard to alter, and because local projects are difficult to implement.

Two Birmingham projects were used as longitudinal case studies; one led by the local authority and one by a voluntary community group representing different approaches to sustainable energy. In both projects, energy efficiency and/or microgeneration technologies were installed and were followed over a period of 18-20 months. Monthly board meetings were attended, documents were studied and 62 interviews were carried out with the beneficiaries of the projects and the project organisers, at two points in time. The nature of success in both projects was explored, as meanings and priorities ebbed and flowed over the course of their lifetimes.

In both projects many causative beliefs were found which defined the problems that each project was trying to solve, the solutions to those problems, and hence the nature of success. This needs to be understood at many levels; at the level of the individual, the level of the group delivering the projects, and at the level of society, or the social system. Failure at one level or in one aspect of the problem does not preclude success at another level or in another aspect. Success can include the achievement of behaviour change, system change or the installation of appropriate technologies, and the achievement of the delivery of locally acceptable projects. However success also includes the resolution of particular local issues, ii which colour local projects for sustainable energy. Thus, ‘success’ means many things on many levels, as the problem faced by local projects for sustainable energy is multi-faceted, multi-level, complex and holistic, and because these meanings change and become more or less salient during the life of a project. Those projects which can explicitly promote and manage these different successes have more chance of being viewed positively. The current literature does not address these issues, and hence does not fully represent how these projects progress and are portrayed. This is essential if local projects are to be built upon, to create a sustainable energy future.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
June 2014Completed
Subjects: CAH10 - engineering and technology > CAH10-01 - engineering > CAH10-01-10 - others in engineering
Divisions: Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2017 15:36
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 13:11
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/4869

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