Conceptualising multi-regime interactions: The role of the agriculture sector in renewable energy transitions

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Abstract

The agriculture sector plays an important role in renewable energy transitions, owing to its historical involvement in managing key resources, particularly land and biomass. We develop the multi-level perspective in relation to these emergent transition processes, conceptualising transitions towards renewable electricity production as examples of multi-regime interaction between national-level agriculture and electricity regimes. We focus particularly on the role of niche 'anchoring' into multiple regimes as the mechanism through which multi-regime interaction occurs, utilising case studies in Germany, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. Analysis suggests the birth of a new 'fiat' regime, oriented towards renewable electricity production. We suggest that fiat regimes, which are heavily dependent on policy supports, are often multifunctional in nature. In addition, we argue that agriculture's inherent connection to land demonstrates one of the specific characteristics of 'fiat regimes': fiat regimes are constructed largely in response to policy efforts to produce or protect public goods, such as natural resources, as opposed to 'market regimes' based on technological developments. Findings demonstrate support for the 'special case' of the agriculture sector in transition processes: high degrees of policy involvement led to 'windows of opportunity' created largely in response to national and international policy agendas, and the multiple functions of agriculture were reflected in competition between agriculture and electricity sectors over natural resource access. As renewable energy currently represents a secondary transition in the agriculture sector, we suggest that further attention needs to be paid to the impact of fiat regime policies on secondary transition processes.

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Sutherland, L. A., Peter, S., & Zagata, L. (2015). Conceptualising multi-regime interactions: The role of the agriculture sector in renewable energy transitions. Research Policy, 44(8), 1543–1554. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2015.05.013

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