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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: A systematic review of energy systems: The role of policymaking in sustainable transitions
Author(s): Munro, Fiona Robertson
Cairney, Paul
Keywords: Systems thinking
Sociotechnical transitions
Complex systems
Socio-ecological systems
Energy system
Issue Date: Mar-2020
Citation: Munro FR & Cairney P (2020) A systematic review of energy systems: The role of policymaking in sustainable transitions. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 119, Art. No.: 109598.
Abstract: The language of systems can be highly useful when defined clearly. It can help make sense of the interconnectedness of key actors, the ‘emergence’ of outcomes from large numbers of interactions, and the proposed transformation – by many governments - towards sustainable energy systems. However, ‘whole systems analysis’ and ‘systems thinking’ is often too vague to guide this project well. To explore these issues in depth, we show how they arise frequently in UK energy policy research and its impact on policymaking. First, our systematic review shows how researchers present patchy or inconsistent stories, in which the role of policy and policymaking is unclear, when they describe energy systems. Second, UK and devolved governments often use the language of systems to propose paradigmatic energy policy change, but refer to a metaphor rather than academic insights. Third, we outline three ways to make clearer sense of energy transitions and policy with reference to socio-technical, complex, and social-ecological systems.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.rser.2019.109598
Rights: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. You are not required to obtain permission to reuse this article.
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