Actor strategies for dealing with sector coupling and technology competition: how do organizations position themselves and how does this influence the system transitioan?

This project sheds light on actors and agency in multi-technology interaction in the road freight transport sector. The research on sustainability transitions has focused more on actors and agency over the last years but a research gap remains regarding actors’ roles between supporting and opposing technologies and larger transitions (Fischer & Newig, 2016). Additionally, the technologies that such actors deal with are not isolated entities but exist in interaction with other technologies – a fact that has only been recently addressed in research on multi-technology interaction (Andersen & Markard, 2019).

However, this research so far does not address the societal or political aspects, which influence and are in turn affected by such technology interactions (Andersen & Markard, 2019). Earlier single technology studies with an actor focus provide the theoretical grounding around societal and political aspects for the project, with a central focus on the concepts of expectations, strategies, and framing.

The empirical case for this study are competing alternative drives in the transport sector. Actors with high stakes in this sector, such as policymakers and companies (as both producers and users), need to make sense of the current multi-technology landscape, including battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, (synthetic) gas vehicles, and catenary trucks, and are developing different strategies to manage this reality and position themselves. In this project, the case of synthetic methane in freight transport serves as a starting point to analyse actor behaviour towards interactions between different alternative drives and towards the sector coupling between the energy and gas system.

Based on a media analysis and interviews, the project analyses which strategies regulators, producers, and users use to deal with multiple technologies and why they choose these strategies. Organizations can, for example, strategically support and frame some technologies while dismissing others and thereby shape the societal perceptions of these technologies. Insights into such dynamics in the social construction of technology can feed into policy and industry recommendations for the transport transition. Reality is more complex and inter-connected than the single-technology focus, which has dominated research so far. Through this project, this realization is further supplemented with an actor-centred view.

Aline Scherrer

Aline Scherrer

Phone +49 721 6809-194