Reimagining energy interventions : policies, practices, and households in transition

Wilcox, James E.
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Nieusma, Dean
Kinchy, Abby J.
Fortun, Kim
Winner, Langdon
Tonkinwise, Cameron
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Science and technology studies
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Among U.S. states, New York is one of the most actively engaged in developing ambitious policy interventions to enroll households in sustainable energy transition pathways. This dissertation is guided by the overarching question: What is the relationship between policy interventions and transitions in household energy provisioning practices? In addressing this question, I develop the concept of imaginaries of transition, which bridges and extends theories of sociotechnical imaginaries and transition. I draw on two years of multi-sited fieldwork following energy policies through time and across constituencies to show how the design of energy policy interventions is a key site of struggle for state, industry, and advocacy stakeholders seeking to shape transition pathways available to households. I find that although a dominant imaginary, shaped by technocratic forms of expertise and characterized by liberal individualist logics of change, has been (re)produced in and by New York’s recent policy interventions, a suite of new intervention strategies marked by a more collectivist, solidaristic imaginary of transition are emerging in its midst. I argue that the extent to which transition pathways that embody this alternative imaginary are realized will be determined by the abilities of policymakers and advocates to embrace institutional innovations that broaden intervention networks and enable more diverse and robust forms material participation.
August 2015
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Dept. of Science and Technology Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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