Mobilising multi-scalar energy sector transformations through solution-oriented research on systemic solar adoption

Name of KANs: Decarbonisation; Transformations

Name of KANs

Decarbonisation; Transformations

Session abstract

An increased understanding of the dynamics of local shifts towards solar energy is crucial for influencing energy sector trajectories globally. These must be understood in the context of multiple regional political economies and emerging socio-technical transitions. The rising affordability of solar technologies coupled with recently incremental divestment from thermal energy in the form of both oil and coal makes such shifts increasingly relevant and feasible, but this area of research and practice is still in its infancy.

The participants in this panel represent a diversity of empirical, conceptual and methodological approaches to how specific distributed solar energy solutions map on to clean and inclusive energy futures (or not). At the same time, we share a common focus on implications for multi-scalar transformations. How local empirical knowledge can be transferred across spatial contexts, how systemic analyses of structural resistance can inform attempts at transformation, how private- and public-sector ideologies and approaches can interface and interlock in constructive ways that move beyond established, entrenched practices, and how supply- and demand-side concerns can be simultaneously negotiated by leveraging strategies for public engagement: the intent to address these and similar issues informs our approach to unpacking the mobilisation of sectoral socio-technical transformation through solar energy uptake in multiple current forms across space and place.

Informed by operational realities and political economic drivers, we seek to build on a diverse set of recent conceptual groundings to generate a robust way forward for solution-oriented, but at the same time critical, researchers who wish to mobilise sustainable energy futures premised on the widespread adoption of solar solutions in a manner cognizant of both enabling and constraining factors. The outputs from this session are clearly relevant for the SDG 7 on Sustainable Energy for All and target this key theme of the UN High Level Political Forum in 2018, generating initial traction via the ICSS agenda.


This session brings together insights from interdisciplinary research on the scope for solar energy solutions to decentralise control within bureaucratic, large-scale sectors that have historically been characterised by a lack of downward accountability and institutional rigidity, with hands-on experiences from multi-scalar solar energy projects in both the Global North and Global South.

The 90 minute session will take the form of a structured panel discussion on pre-defined topics during the first half. Topics include: reflections on multi-scalar attempts at systemic solar energy solution adoption with an emphasis on identifying constraints; a best practice catalogue with researchers who have collaborated closely with specific industry projects over time pinpointing various enabling factors; and a mapping of generic institutions in key regulatory and transformational roles based on engagement with multiple empirical contexts.

The second half will open up for questions from the audience to different panelists. A priority is to anticipate common ground and challenge unquestioningly-held assumptions based on other panelists’ involvement at other scales or with other parts of the energy sector (generation, transmission and distribution) in relation to proposed systemic solar energy solutions. The key focus is to bring critical knowledge on board towards a transformative set of practices for the energy sector, framed within the premise that such an understanding requires exchange between academics and practitioners.