The power of networks : renewable electricity in India and South Africa.
Electricity supply industries (ESI) around the world are subject to structural and regulatory
change. The environmental implications of these changes will depend, largely, on future
investment within cleaner technologies. As developing countries (Des) increase levels of
electricity supply, the incentives for investment in clean technologies is particularly important.
Policy-makers wishing to promote renewable electricity technologies (RETs) in Des need to
understand the nature of technological change in large technical systems (LTS). Broadly this
thesis adopts the view that technological change is the outcome of the complex interaction of
technical, economic and political factors. Initially technological change in LTS is shaped by
social and political factors. As the system increases in both size and complexity driven by
economies of scale and scope, and through co-evolution of technical and institutional features, it
exhibits 'momentum,' whereupon technological change tends to be 'incremental' and
autonomous. Through problem-solving activities to address 'reverse salients' the system evolves
on a 'technological trajectory,' its path confined by technological and economic boundaries
defined by the prevailing 'techno-economic' paradigm. Subsequently new technologies such as
RETs, with characteristics different to those of the 'Traditional Electricity System Trajectory'
(TEST) are unlikely to be favoured.
Restructuring the electricity system provides a discontinuity in its momentum, allowing the
drivers and interactions of different stakeholders to be more transparent. During such periods of
instability there are important opportunities for systemic change through meaningful policy input.
The socio-economic importance of electricity supply in Des further increases the 'technoinstitutional
complexity' within the electricity system, and so resistance to restructuring.
The thesis argues that restructuring of the ESI is a necessary, but not sufficient requirement for
commercialisation of RETs. Rather policies supported by legislation should ensure that
conservative techno-institutional mechanisms are replaced by ones that encourage a 'Balanced
Electricity System Trajectory.' The BEST framework incorporates 'economies of the system' as a
driver and is characterised by distributed technologies including small-scale and modular
generation and sophisticated control technologies. As well as being characterised by flexible
control in the technical sense, the BEST model is also characterised by flexible institutional