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The role of social enterprise in the transition to a low carbon energy system

Hillman, J (2019) The role of social enterprise in the transition to a low carbon energy system. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

Socio-technical transitions have come to the forefront of academic debate on the challenges of developing a low-carbon economy. According to the transitions literature, addressing socio-ecological problems and underlying complexes of technologies and institutions requires novel approaches with a long-term orientation, as well as reflexive and adaptive policy design. Niche innovations play an important role in unearthing new solutions during the transition to a low-carbon energy system. In this context, the main aim of this investigation is to review the value of applying social enterprise in community owned energy schemes as a form of social innovation. This thesis reports on original research undertaken on the Role of Social Enterprise in the Transition to a Low Carbon Energy System. Through an in-depth case study and policy analysis, extensive stakeholder engagement and interrogation of the characteristics of social enterprises across a range of contexts, the potential of social enterprise to act as local level social innovation niche is investigated. The research conducted provides insight into the holistic nature of energy focused social enterprises and explores the common barriers faced such as raising finance, project development and managing key stakeholders. This investigation provides a business model perspective on the formulation of social enterprise within a socio-technical transitions conceptual framework. More broadly, the potential of social enterprises to act as ‘transitions engines’, by delivering a just community energy transition is investigated. The research has several important findings; 1) that social enterprises can increase democratisation in the energy system, 2) the premature withdrawal of protected space has hindered the growth of the community energy sector, and 3) the rapidly changing policy landscape has triggered innovation activity in the community energy sector. Social enterprises within a low carbon energy system are likely to remain at the niche level unless financially viable business models that can compete in the energy market can be identified and scaled-up.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social enterprise; Low carbon; Socio-technical transitions; Niche innovation; Grassroots innovation
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
Divisions: Natural Sciences and Psychology
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2019 10:15
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2019 10:15
DOI or Identification number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00010081
Supervisors: Kirby, J
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10081

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