Energy Pathways in Low Carbon Development: from Technology Transfer to Socio-technical Transformation

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Working Paper

The relationships between energy and development are complex, compounded by increasingly differentiated situations amongst developing countries and within them. Moreover, the manner in which energy services are realised has consequences for our health, environment, wealth, and social relations. Two important issues currently preoccupying the realm of international development are enhancing energy access whilst simultaneously addressing climate change. International climate change negotiations place an emphasis on low-carbon technology transfer, which perpetuates a long history of expectations about technology providing solutions to energy and development challenges.

Drawing upon the history of technology transfer, and discussing the record of the Clean Development Mechanism, this paper questions just how much the dominant ‘hardware and finance’ framing will help communities explore and develop low-carbon pathways that meet their needs. Our view is that a much broader and ambitions approach to energy and development is needed. We suggest a ‘socio-technical transformation’ framework for organising low carbon energy initiatives in development. In making this argument, we use a pathways approach to understanding the challenges of energy and development; an approach being developed by the STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex. Having argued for a broader and more plural perspective, we conclude the paper by suggesting a research agenda for testing its potential.