Exploring renewal, heaviness and variety in the Swedish energy system
Conference contribution, 2019
In this paper the existing energy system will be analyzed as heavy resource structures with the aim to explore renewal in heavy resource structures. The energy system can be viewed as an industrial system and thus analytically be seen through the lens of the network model separating: activities, resources and actors (Håkansson, 1987). In order to understand renewal of the established structures, resources are in focus. Resources are seen as heterogeneous, referring to that the value of resources depend on how they are combined with other resources. Resource combining and resource re-combining will be important aspects of renewal in an industrial system characterized by heaviness (Håkansson & Waluszewski, 2002, 2018). Also the established resource structure as context (Bengtson, 2003) will be useful for analyzing possible ways of finding renewal.
There is no doubt our modern society needs renewal and energy from renewable sources. Renewable energy refers to energy derived from wind, water, sun and waves, meaning energy from sources that are not consumed. What currently is more of a discussion is what kind of renewable energy sources that will dominate in the coming years. The view of the future is both diverging and uncertain (Melander, Dubois, Hedvall, & Lind, 2019). Many actors try to and will influence the development of future energy sources, including industry, university and government agencies. A starting point is that we will need several different renewable energy sources simultaneously. Developing the technology behind renewable energy is complex since it not only involves developing the technology per se but also infrastructure, systems, business interactions and models. Importantly, what is challenging is that the existing fossil fuel-based energy systems need to be changed and/or replaced, which at times hindering the development.
The framework of the paper builds on the assumption of resource heterogeneity implying that the value of resources depends on how they are combined with other resources. Resources could be organizational and technological in nature (Baraldi, Gressetvold, & Harrison, 2012). The framework focuses on how resources are developed through interaction between the start-ups and different types of actors such as developing partners, users and suppliers. Building on this framework we will look at: (1) the resources and their features that are exchanged and developed in interaction, (2) how existing resources are changed, combined and recombined and (3) how resources impact one another, and are accepted or not as new resource combinations in broader contexts.
The method of the paper is a case study methodology. The empirical data of the paper is centered on the resource network of the energy sector in Sweden. The case will be used to see the role of interaction between established firms as well as start-ups and in this way explore renewal in heavy resource structures. The paper has its empirical base in an ongoing project funded by the Swedish Energy Agency, where we are investigating the role taken by technology-based start-up companies in commercializing their technologies for renewable energy in Sweden. The start-ups in focus for the project have technologies for renewable energy as their commercial bases, for example, water-based energy solutions and creating renewable energy from algae.
Practice and policy underline the importance of innovation in broad and start-ups for economic development and growth. Start-up managers are always foreseeing an uncertain future with limited resources and no established customer relationships (see e.g. Aaboen, Dubois, & Lind, 2011). When their context is characterized by diverse expectations on the fossil free alternatives to be used, we see needs for understanding established firms and start-ups roles for renewable energy in order to contributing insights that can be helpful for government as well as policy terms (Andersson, Vico, Hammar, & Sandén, 2017). We will be able to explain renewal with help of a theoretical approach emphasizing interaction, implying a potential for contribution to the innovation literature as well as opportunities for practical implications for managers in companies and representatives of universities and policy actors.