How to account for the dark sides of social innovation? Transitions directionality in renewable energy prosumerism

Bonno Pel, Julia M. Wittmayer*, Flor Avelino, Derk Loorbach, Tessa de Geus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Social innovation is gaining attention as a pivotal dimension of socio-technical transitions with renewable energy prosumerism as a prominent example. However, this example also highlights that social innovation evokes concerns about purposes, beneficiaries, normative dilemmas and legitimacy. This paper addresses recent calls to confront the perceived ‘dark sides’ of social innovations. As debates on these dark sides often get stuck in either naive optimism or paralyzing critique, the paper investigates how transitions theory can inform nuanced understandings. The key concept is transitions directionality. The analysis shows how it conceptualizes the dark sides as manifestations of socio-technical path dependence, as disempowering ideological ‘landscape’ factors, as internal contradictions within institutionally complex regimes, as niche-regime dialectics, and as transition phases. Rather than proposing a particular normative position, the paper presents a heuristic that supports well-considered engagement with the dark sides.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100775
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Volume49
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Transitions
  • Social innovation
  • Directionality
  • Ethics
  • Prosumerism
  • Critical theory

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