Approach

For the study of the conditions for decarbonization of energy-intensive natural resource-based industry (ENRI) and possible pathways for governing industrial transformation we have identified three scientific needs: (1) to develop theories and methods to better describe, analyze and understand transition processes, (2) to develop new knowledge about technical solutions and structural transformation in ENRI, as well as (3) deepen our understanding of interdependence and coevolution between the development of the energy system and industry.

Sustainability transition research (STR) has over the last decade become a dominant influence setting the agenda for the study of sustainability transitions. However, the transformation of ENRIs have been largely overlooked in STR, although posing a number of characteristics and conditions that put distinct challenges for sustainability transitions. The ENRI sectors are, from an STR perspective, assumed to represent incumbent regimes with strong path dependencies and lock-ins due to both structural conditions and substantial power of interest. Considering for instance the capital-intensive, large-scale and long-term investment cycles, it is unlikely to expect wide-spread nisch-cumulation of radical innovation as the main dynamic of industrial transformations aimed at decarbonization in this industry. Thus, we need a better understanding of regime transformation and have to engage with a broader set of perspectives to understand the dynamics of structural transformation in ENRI industries.

Informed by a multi-disciplinary approach we will draw on insights from system innovation studies (e.g. MLP, TIS); energy system studies; structural change economics; critical realist perspectives on structural transformation; and governance, policy development and institutional change theory, to be able to analyze the broad set of dynamics of structural transformation in ENRI industries and address the identified three scientific needs of the project.