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PhD Defence Imke Lammers

rules for watt? - Designing appropriate governance arrangements for the introduction of smart grids

Imke Lammers is a PhD student in the Department of Governance and Technology for Sustainability (CSTM). Her supervisors are prof.mr.dr. M.A. Heldeweg and dr. M.J. Arentsen from the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS).

The increasing generation of electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and sun furthers the transition to a sustainable energy system, but at the same time challenges the operation and management of the electricity grid. Smart grids are considered a sustainable and energy-efficient solution to this challenge because they can facilitate the integration of electricity from intermitted renewable energy sources and the accommodation of more fluctuating demand patterns in the distribution grid. The PhD thesis aims to contribute to the improvement of smart grid introduction in practice. Smart grids are considered essential for the Dutch energy transition, but decision-making in energy planning and on smart grid introduction is rather slow and time-consuming. To improve the introduction of smart grids in the Netherlands, this dissertation focusses on the institutional side of decision-making practices, and specifically on the ‘rules of the game’ governing multi-stakeholder local energy planning processes. The research is guided by the research question ‘how can local governance on the introduction of smart grids be improved?’ To address this question, first, governance arrangements inherent to decision-making on the introduction of smart grids in Dutch city districts are studied empirically. This led to three overarching findings: (1) efficiency in local energy planning on the introduction of smart grids is low; (2) there is mostly a lack of residents’ participation in the local planning process of their city district’s energy infrastructure; and (3) several rules-in-use are disabling local energy planning as well as are often conflicting with (experimental) rules-in-form. Based on this, second, two heuristics are developed that can facilitate the introduction of smart grids in local settings: an institutional architecture (of institutional arrangements) and a process architecture (of decision-making functionality). The two heuristics are not only suitable for the introduction of smart grids in Dutch local settings, but also for the realization of additional (integrated) smart energy infrastructures in different contexts.