Department of Business Development and Technology

Hot transformations: Governing rapid and deep household heating transitions in China, Denmark, Finland and the United Kingdom

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The rapid decarbonisation of heat remains a challenging energy and climate policy priority. In this study, after screening 461 global case studies, we examine four national household transitions in heat, and examine their implications for governance. These transitions were both rapid, involving transformations in heat provision in a short timeframe of 18–35 years; and deep, involving diffusion that collectively reached more than 100 million households and more than 310 million people. From 1995 to 2015, China stimulated industrial research with strong municipal and national targets and policies to the point where they saw adoption rates for solar thermal systems surpass 95% market penetration in many urban areas. From 1976 to 2011, Denmark blended small-scale decentralized community control with national standards and policies to promote district heating so it reached 80% of household needs. From 2000 to 2018, Finland harnessed user and peer-to-peer learning, and innovation, alongside national and European policies and incentives so that heat pumps reached almost a third of all homes. From 1960 to 1977, The United Kingdom coordinated a nationalized Gas Council and Area Boards with industry groups, appliance manufacturers, installers and marketing campaigns so that gas central heating reached almost half of all homes. These four rapid case studies share commonalities in polycentric governance, rooted in (1) equity, (2) inclusivity, (3) information and innovation, (4) ownership and accountability, (5) organizational multiplicity, and (6) experimentation and flexibility. The study affirms that designing the right sort of political and governance architecture can be just as salient as technical innovation and development in stimulating transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111330
JournalEnergy Policy
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Energy and climate governance, Energy transitions, Heat as a service, Heat decarbonisation, Polycentrism, Residential heating

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