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Governing infrastructure networks for a low carbon economy: co-evolution of technologies and institutions in UK electricity distribution networks

This paper analyses efforts to promote innovation in the UK energy networks sector. Using a case study approach, we chart the co-evolution between technologies and institutions in electricity distribution networks since the introduction of privatization and market liberalization over twenty years ago. It is observed that as a result of macro level institutional dynamics, innovation has become an increasingly important policy and regulatory goal. However, efforts to promote radical and architectural innovation, such as the transition to a smart grid, face significant barriers at the firm and sector levels. It is argued that changes are required to the formal and informal institutions which govern the sector in order to promote a more coherent relationship between technological and institutional change, leading to a productive innovation system which allows firms to collaborate across the electricity value chain and develop inter-firm/cross sector innovation partnerships.