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  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2022

Understanding Energy Innovation

Learning from Smart Grid Experiments

Palgrave Macmillan


  • Provides an interdisciplinary social science approach to understanding utility innovation

  • Written in an accessible style, avoiding academic jargon and demystifying core social research concepts

  • Offers a unique resource for practitioners and professionals in the energy sector

  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (6 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xi
  2. Introduction

    • Heather Lovell
    Pages 1-16Open Access
  3. Networks

    • Heather Lovell
    Pages 17-36Open Access
  4. Nodes

    • Heather Lovell
    Pages 37-52Open Access
  5. Narratives

    • Heather Lovell
    Pages 53-71Open Access
  6. Nostalgia

    • Heather Lovell
    Pages 73-89Open Access
  7. Conclusions

    • Heather Lovell
    Pages 91-98Open Access
  8. Back Matter

    Pages 99-101

About this book

This open access book uses smart grids to explore and better understand energy innovation, from a social science perspective. Understanding Energy Innovation has four core themes—networks, nodes, narratives and nostalgia—and each chapter tackles a theme, using case studies from Australia and Europe. Energy innovation is currently occurring at a rapid pace, in response to a host of problems including climate change, high energy prices, and unreliable supply. Understanding Energy Innovation provides ways to think about and plan for energy sector reform and innovation, drawing on core ideas from social and innovation theory, and centred on smart grids as a case study. These academic ideas are written about in an accessible way, recognising that a diversity of people have an interest in energy innovation generally, and smart grids more specifically, and would like to find out more about ways of understanding energy innovation that integrate the social and the political.


  • smart grids
  • sociotechnical transitions
  • innovation
  • energy policy
  • infrastructure
  • household energy
  • household behaviour
  • organisational change
  • energy micro-grids
  • energy and islands
  • open access


“Setting out to de-mystify energy innovation, this book provides a comprehensive, grounded and accessible overview of the insights that a social perspective on energy transitions brings. With a focus on smart grids, drawing on examples from Australia and around the world, it explores the dynamics of innovation in practice, the stories we tell about it, and how nostalgia for times gone past will shape energy futures. A practical, insightful guide for the transition pathways ahead.” (Professor Harriet Bulkeley, Durham University, and Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University)

“The electricity grid already was a uniquely complex machine so what does it take to make it ‘smart’? Engineering can detail the material ingredients, but only the social sciences can explain the messy process of trying to make such innovations happen. In the short space of this unique book, Lovell provides expert guidance to the social science theories behind innovation, sheds new light on Australia’s smart grid experiments and (wait for it) explains why nostalgia matters.” (Dan van der Horst, Professor of Energy, Environment and Society, University of Edinburgh)

“Lovell presents an accessible and insightful framework for considering energy innovation. Through current case studies, she makes a powerful argument for more attention to be given to the social and human dimensions of innovation in the energy transition. This is a valuable contribution for those who commission and fund energy research, those who undertake research, and those who use the results.” (Drew Clarke, Chair, Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) ‘Australian Energy Transition Research Plan’)

Authors and Affiliations

  • School of Social Sciences & School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

    Heather Lovell

About the author

Heather Lovell is Professor of Energy and Society at the University of Tasmania, Australia. She is a human geographer with research interests in energy, climate change and the environment. Her research concerns the politics, policies and practices of innovation in response to environmental problems, focused on three empirical strands: smart grids, low energy housing, and carbon markets. Heather has previously held positions at Edinburgh, Durham and Oxford Universities in the UK. 

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Understanding Energy Innovation

  • Book Subtitle: Learning from Smart Grid Experiments

  • Authors: Heather Lovell

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Singapore

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2022

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-981-16-6252-2Published: 16 November 2021

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-981-16-6255-3Published: 16 November 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-981-16-6253-9Published: 15 November 2021

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XI, 101

  • Number of Illustrations: 9 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Human Geography, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology, Political Science

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)