Energy Transitions and Social Psychology: A Sociotechnical Perspective, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Energy Transitions and Social Psychology

A Sociotechnical Perspective, 1st Edition

By Paul Upham, Paula Bögel, Katinka Johansen


194 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138311756
pub: 2019-02-21
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pub: 2019-02-01
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This book explains how social psychological concepts can be closely integrated with sociotechnical perspectives of energy transitions. It shows the value of actor-centred analysis that acknowledges the role of individual-level processes within their wider contexts of energy supply and use. In this way, the book connects social psychological and sociological frames of analysis, preserving the value of both, to provide multi-level, analytically extended accounts of energy transitions processes.

Sociotechnical thinking is about the interactions of people and technology, including the rules, regulations and institutions involved. Such perspectives help to identify the many forms of path dependency that can make change difficult. Human behaviour plays a strong role in maintaining these path dependencies, but it can also introduce change. This book advocates a deliberately interdisciplinary research agenda that recognises the value of social psychological perspectives when seeking to create new pathways for energy supply and use. At the same time, it also demonstrates the value of sociotechnical perspectives for energy-related social psychology.

Energy Transitions and Social Psychology will be of great interest to students and scholars of energy transitions, environmental and energy psychology, sustainable development and innovation studies, as well as students and scholars of environment and energy more generally.


"Current discussions about transitions are often dominated by techno-economic perspectives that obsess over elements like carbon and cost. This book takes a refreshing departure from that paradigm, and it explores the cognitive, psychological and behavioural elements underlying those very same transitions. It underscores that if we truly want a more sustainable future, we need to change not only the technologies we build and the market mechanisms we design, but how we think about ourselves, society, and the sociotechnical systems embedded between them all." -- Benjamin K. Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the School of Business, Management, and Economics, University of Sussex, UK

"Transition studies and (environmental and social) psychology have strongly contributed to our understanding of sustainability transitions. However, and surprisingly, the streams of literature have so far developed in relatively unconnected ways. I thus consider this book a valuable addition to the literature." -- Elisabeth Dütschke, Senior Scientist at Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), Germany

"This timely book is a must-read for all transition scholars interested in studying agency in sustainability transitions. It is also a welcome invitation for a greater engagement of social psychologists in studying the role of individuals within larger socio-technical transition processes towards sustainability. May it inspire new interdisciplinary research leading to an enhanced understanding of how to accelerate sustainability transitions in sectors such as energy, mobility or agro-food." -- Karoline Rogge, Senior Lecturer at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) and Co-Director of the Sussex Energy Group, University of Sussex, UK, and Senior Researcher, Fraunhofer ISI, Germany

"This is an important book for social scientists and others concerned with sociotechnical transitions. The authors have identified and explored a hugely significant aspect of energy transitions and energy technology diffusion, acceptance and use: the connection between individual-level psychology with sociotechnical processes. The message is very relevant: social psychology is not only important to sociotechnical transitions in the context of energy supply and use, but that the differences in analytic levels are bridgeable." -- Christian Oltra, PhD, Senior Researcher at the Centro de Investigación Socio-Técnica, CIEMAT Barcelona.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Boxes



Author Biographies

Part I Rationale

1. Introduction

2. Social science approaches to energy technology acceptance and diffusion

3. How is social psychology currently used in the sociotechnical sustainability transitions literature?

4. Strong structuration as an integrating framework for psychological and sociological perspectives

Part II Case study applications

5. The psychology of expectations in sociotechnical systems

6. The role of social representations in sociotechnical transitions

7. The role of values in grassroots innovations

8. Socio-technical transition governance and public engagement

9. Conclusions and research directions



About the Authors


Paul Upham is Chair of Human Behaviour and Sustainable Development at Leuphana University, Germany, and Visiting Professor at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

Paula Bögel is a post-doctoral researcher in the social psychology of energy transitions at the Chair for Human Behaviour and Sustainable Development at Leuphana University, Germany and of the research group Urban Analytics and Transitions at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden.

Katinka Johansen is a post-doctoral researcher in energy social science at the Chair for Human Behaviour and Sustainable Development at Leuphana University, and has recently completed a PhD in social psychology at the Technical University of Denmark.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Energy Transitions

Considerable interest exists today in energy transitions. Whether one looks at diverse efforts to decarbonize, or strategies to improve the access levels, security and innovation in energy systems, one finds that change in energy systems is a prime priority.

Routledge Studies in Energy Transitions aims to advance the thinking which underlies these efforts. The series connects distinct lines of inquiry from planning and policy, engineering and the natural sciences, history of technology, STS, and management. In doing so, it provides primary references that function like a set of international, technical meetings. Single and co-authored monographs are welcome, as well as edited volumes relating to themes, like resilience and system risk.

Key focus areas: Technology change and fuel substitution, centralized-decentralized shifts, new business models and market redesign, innovation systems, governance levers/approaches or economics in transitions, etc. Writing on different types of energy transitions is encouraged. 

Dr. Kathleen Araújo is the Director of the Energy Policy Institute with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a consortium of public universities, Idaho National Laboratory, and industry. She is also an Associate Professor in the School of Public Service at Boise State University, where she specializes in policy and innovation systems associated with energy transitions and industrial development.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for this series, please contact Annabelle Harris, Editor for Environment and Sustainability:

Series Advisory Board

Morgan Bazilian, Columbia University, Center for Global Energy Policy (US)

Thomas Birkland, North Carolina State University (US)

Aleh Cherp, Central European University (CEU, Budapest) and Lund University

Mohamed El-Ashry, UN Foundation

Jose Goldemberg, Universidade de Sao Paolo (Brasil) and UN Development Program, World Energy Assessment

Michael Howlett, Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Jon Ingimarsson, Landsvirkjun, National Power Company (Iceland)

Michael Jefferson, ESCP Europe Business School

Jessica Jewell, IIASA (Austria)

Florian Kern, University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit and Sussex Energy Group (United Kingdom)

Derk Loorbach, DRIFT (Netherlands)

Jochen Markard, ETH (Switzerland)

Nabojsa Nakicenovic, IIASA (Austria)

Martin Pasqualetti, Arizona State University, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning (US)

Mark Radka, UN Environment Programme, Energy, Climate, and Technology

Rob Raven, Utrecht University (Netherlands)

Roberto Schaeffer, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Energy Planning Program, COPPE (Brasil)

Miranda Schreurs, Technische Universität Mūnchen, Bavarian School of Public Policy (Germany)

Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba and Royal Society of Canada (Canada)

Benjamin Sovacool, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Energy Industries
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy
SCIENCE / Energy
SCIENCE / Environmental Science
SCIENCE / Global Warming & Climate Change