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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Steering transformative energy efficiency and conservation in British Columbia, Canada Berkhout, Thomas William


In this thesis I assess the strength of efforts by the Government of British Columbia and BC Hydro to steer transformative energy efficiency and conservation (TEEC) in BC’s built environment between 2005 and 2012. TEEC implies a level of energy savings that requires major changes over the next 10 to 40 years in not only the physical components of the built environment but also in day-to-day routines and patterns of life. An underlying assumption of the thesis is that in order to learn about, develop and implement the kinds of initiatives needed to achieve TEEC an accelerated system of policy and technology innovation is required. In carrying out my research, my particular focus was on assessing the influence of governance practices on efforts to achieve TEEC and on the outcomes that these practices lead to. To do this, I developed a theory-based evaluation framework to assess the effectiveness of existing governance approaches to steer socio-technical transitions. The underlying premise of the theory is that a reflexive governance approach to steering transitions is more likely to lead to a stronger transition context which over time increases the likelihood of a transition being achieved. To this end, the thesis singled-out eight system conditions that I argue are needed to build and maintain the kind of momentum needed to realize long-term transformational change in complex socio-technical systems. These eight conditions were then used as the basis for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the Province’s and BC Hydro’s efforts to steer TEEC. When I compared the strength of the transition conditions being created in each case study against the governance approach used, I found a link between the use of reflexive governance practices and stronger transition conditions. Based on this assessment 15 recommendations were advanced for how to improve the governance of TEEC in BC’s built environment. What is more, these findings suggest that any effort to pursue TEEC will need to also be accompanied by a shift to a more reflexive approach for steering transformational change.

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