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A resource-based view of opportunities to transform Australia's electricity sector

Biggs, Che
Journal of cleaner production 2016 v.123 pp. 203-217
energy, fossil fuels, households, politics, small businesses, Australia
Proponents of low-carbon transformation face an uphill battle to reconfigure incumbent energy systems against powerful interests protecting the status quo. Australia's electricity sector is an example of such a system, wedded to fossil fuels and backed by much of the country's political establishment. This paper addresses the potential for low-carbon transformation in Australia's electricity sector. It explores the complex and uncertain dynamics shaping the sector and outlines how these can be understood through the lens of strategic agency – with an eye for opportunities to drive a shift to renewables. It reviews the dynamics of change and re-stability shaping Australia's electricity sector between 2006 and 2015 and applies a resource-based view of transformative agency to analyse these dynamics. Results show the sector suffers multiple stressors and emphasise disruptive changes ‘in the pipeline’. Critically, many of these transformative dynamics stem from factors outside the influence of the electricity sector and its supporters. While results do not point to a clear trajectory or outcome of transformation, they indicate the uptake of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems by households and small business will play a defining role in the sector's future configuration. Furthermore, the exploration of transformative dynamics affecting the electricity sector through a resource-based lens shows that many opportunities exist for strategic agents to intervene in support of a disruptive shift to renewables. The paper suggests a range of mechanisms that agents could use to undermine the strength of fossil energy in the electricity sector and encourage a shift to renewables.