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The ‘Sustainable Energy Concept’ – making sense of norms and co-evolution within a large research facility's energy strategy

Peck, Philip, Parker, Thomas
Journal of cleaner production 2016 v.123 pp. 137-154
coevolution, concrete, energy efficiency, models, renewable energy sources, research facilities, socioeconomics, stakeholders
The analysis presents an evolving ‘Energy Concept’ and strategy at an energy-intensive research facility in order to contribute understanding of how organisations may implement renewable energies and improve energy efficiency whilst also delivering broader socio-economic benefits. A framework is developed that infuses institutional perspectives with a micro level view. It facilitates positioning of strategy against instrumental/altruistic and factual/relational extremes and analysis of organisational strategy in the face of internal/external stakeholder, and institutional forces. Applied to a seven-year case this supports understanding of strategy ‘purpose’ and ‘inputs’ as they co-evolve along a project time-line. It is found that the energy strategy evolves from a dominantly instrumental but stakeholder-driven position towards approaches aligned with deliberate public good provision in areas beyond direct organizational interests, and that changes required significant redefinition of the design and operational models. Developments are explained as largely the result of internal agency and culture-building influences from an energy department equipped with concrete management tools and autonomy. At the case level, the study concludes that the Energy Concept implementation has sparked a change in energy management at large global research facilities. The work also demonstrates that longitudinal, multi-level institutional analysis can contribute to deeper understanding of strategy development.