An Integrative Spatial Perspective on Energy Transition: Renewable Energy Niches

  • Filip Gulan
  • Maros FinkaEmail author
  • Michal Varga
Part of the EAI/Springer Innovations in Communication and Computing book series (EAISICC)


The shift towards sustainable use of renewable energy accompanied by noteworthy improvements in energy efficiency and reduced consumption is considered as a fundamental element of energy transition. However, framing the role of the sustainable energy development in a monofunctional way does not allow to use its multifunctional potential linked to sustainable development efficiently and may result in disconnection between energy and broader spatial and urban development agenda. This, in turn, can underplay the importance of potential synergy effects between renewable energy production and use and its localized context. This paper presents the narrative that single although innovative solutions are insufficient and poor integration of sustainable energy initiatives creates barriers to achieve sustainability and limits potential synergies with their spatial context. We discuss this phenomenon in relation to new demands on integrative and spatially sensitive approaches to the renewable energy development, often catalysed by ICT hand in hand with the implementation of smart grids – a backbone of the smart city concept. In our attempt was to better understand how renewable energy systems and initiatives emerge, how to maintain and enhance them, and under which conditions they co-evolve with their unique context in a more structured and productive way towards the vision of smart city and hence also recognizes the multifunctional potential of sustainable energy developments. In order to do so, we propose to learn more from both spatial planning and transition management (niche-based) perspectives. Finally, this paper outlines several areas for further research as well as reminds some of the related scientific challenges and disparities between energy and spatial planning.


Energy transition Niche management Renewable energy Smart city Spatial planning 



This contribution is the result of the project implementation: SPECTRA+ No. 26240120002 “Centre of Excellence for the Development of Settlement Infrastructure of Knowledge Economy” supported by the Research and Development Operational Programme funded by the ERDF.


  1. 1.
    Ackermann, T., Andersson, G., & Söder, L. (2001). Distributed generation: A definition1. Electric Power Systems Research, 57(3), 195–204. Available at: Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alanne, K., & Saari, A. (2006). Distributed energy generation and sustainable development. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 10(6), 539–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Araújo, K. (2014). The emerging field of energy transitions: Progress, challenges, and opportunities. Energy Research and Social Science, 1, 112–121. Available at: Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bagliani, M., Dansero, E., & Puttilli, M. (2010). Territory and energy sustainability: The challenge of renewable energy sources. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 53(4), 457–472. Available at: Accessed 15 Dec 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Basta, C., van der Knaap, W., & Carsjens, G. J. (2012). Planning sustainable energy landscapes: From collaborative approaches to individuals’ active planning. Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Development, 7, 187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Berkhout, F., Smith, A., & Stirling, A. (2004). Socio-technological regimes and transition contexts. 117 System innovation and the transition to sustainability: theory, evidence and policy. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 44(106), 48–75.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bomberg, E., & McEwen, N. (2012). Mobilizing community energy. Energy Policy, 51, 435–444. Available at: Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bridge, G., et al. (2013). Geographies of energy transition: Space, place and the low-carbon economy. Energy Policy, 53, 331–340. Available at: Scholar
  9. 9.
    Byrne, R., et al. (2011). Energy pathways in low-carbon development: From technology transfer to socio-technical transformation.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Camagni, R. (2008). Regional competitiveness: towards a concept of territorial capital. In Modelling regional scenarios for the enlarged Europe (pp. 33–48). Berlin: Springer Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Commission, C.F. the & the Commission, C.F. (2010). Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Brussels: European Commission. Available at:,+sustainable+and+inclusive+growth#0.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Davoudi, S. (2009). Framing the role of spatial planning in climate change. Electronic Working Paper, 43(43), 1–44.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Davoudi, S., Crawford, J., & Mehmood, A. (2009). Climate change and spatial planning responses. In Planning for climate change: strategies for mitigation and adaptation for spatial planners (pp. 1–18). London: Earthscan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    European Commission. (1999). European spatial development perspective, Available at:
  15. 15.
    European Innovation Partnership. (2013). European innovation partnership on smart cities and communities strategic implementation plan. European innovation partnership on smart cities 2013, (Strategic implementation plan).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Fouquet, R., & Pearson, P. J. G. (2012). Past and prospective energy transitions: Insights from history. Energy Policy, 50, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Geels, F. W. (2002b). Understanding the dynamics of technological transitions: a co-evolutionaryand socio-technical analysis, Twente University Press Enschede.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Geels, F. W. (2011). The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions: Responses to seven criticisms. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 1(1), 24–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Geels, F. W. & Kemp, R. (2000). Transities vanuit sociotechnisch perspectief, MERIT Maastricht.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Genus, A., & Coles, A.-M. (2008). Rethinking the multi-level perspective of technological transitions. Research Policy, 37(9), 1436–1445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Giordano, V., et al. (2011). Smart Grid projects in Europe : Lessons learned and current developments,Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    IPCC. (2014). Climate change 2014 synthesis report summary chapter for policymakers. Ipcc, p. 31.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jiusto, S. (2009). Energy transformations and geographic research. In A companion to environmental geography (pp. 533–551). Wiley-Blackwell. Available at:
  24. 24.
    Kemp, R., Schot, J., & Hoogma, R. (1998). Regime shifts to sustainability through processes of niche formation: the approach of strategic niche management. Technology analysis & strategic management, 10(2), 175–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kemp, R., & Loorbach, D. (2006). 5. Transition management: a reflexive governance approach. In Reflexive Governance for Sustainable Development (pp. 103–130). Cheltenham/Northampton: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kempener, R., Komor, P., & Hoke, A. (2013). Smart grids and renewables - a guide for effective deployment. International Renewable Energy Agency, (November), p. 47.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kostevšek, A., et al. (2013). A novel concept for a renewable network within municipal energy systems. Renewable Energy, 60, 79–87. Available at: Scholar
  28. 28.
    Loorbach, D. (2007b). Transition management: new mode of governance for sustainable development, Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Loorbach, D. (2010). Transition Management for Sustainable Development: A prescriptive, complexity-based governance framework. Governance, 23(1), 161–183. Available at: Scholar
  30. 30.
    Loorbach, D., Van Der Brugge, R., & Taanman, M. (2008). Governance in the energy transition: Practice of transition management in the Netherlands. International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, 9(2–3), 294–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Müller, M. O., et al. (2011). Energy autarky: A conceptual framework for sustainable regional development. Energy Policy, 39, 5800–5810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Nations, U. (2008). SPATIAL PLANNING - Key Instrument for Development and Effective Governance with Special Reference to Countries in Transition. , pp.1–56. Available at:
  33. 33.
    OECD. (2012). Linking Renewable Energy to Rural Development. OECD Green Growth Studies. Available at:
  34. 34.
    Pasqualetti, M. J. (2011). Social barriers to renewable energy landscapes*. Geographical Review, 101(2), 201–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Rip, A., & Kemp, R. (1998). Technological change, Battelle Press.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Roo, D., Hillier, J., & Van Wezemael, J. (2012). Complexity and spatial planning: introducing systems, assemblages and simulations. In Complexity and Spatial Planning: Systems, Assemblages and Simulations (pp. 1–32). Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Rotmans, J., Kemp, R., & Van Asselt, M. (2001). More evolution than revolution: Transition management in public policy. Foresight, 3(1), 15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Rotmans, J., & Loorbach, D. (2008). Transition management: Reflexive governance of societal complexity through searching, learning and experimenting. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Rotmans, J., & Loorbach, D. (2009a). Complexity and transition management. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 13(2), 184–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Sathaye, J., et al. (2011). Renewable energy in the context of sustainable development. IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, pp. 707–790.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sharma, D. C. (2007). Transforming rural lives through decentralized green power. Futures, 39(5), 583–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Van Der Schoor, T., & Scholtens, B. (2015). Power to the people: Local community initiatives and the transition to sustainable energy. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 43, 666–675. Available at: Scholar
  43. 43.
    Verbong, G., & Loorbach, D. (2012). Governing the energy transition: reality, illusion or necessity?, Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Smith, A. (2007). Translating sustainabilities between green niches and socio-technical regimes. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 19(4), 427–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Smith, A., Voß, J.-P., & Grin, J. (2010). Innovation studies and sustainability transitions: The allure of the multi-level perspective and its challenges. Research Policy, 39(4), 435–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Solomon, B. D., Pasqualetti, M. J. & Luchsinger, D. A. (2003). Energy geography. Geography in America at the dawn of the 21st century, (pp. 302–313). Oxford University Press, UK.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Stremke, S., van den Dobbelsteen, A. (2012). Sustainable energy landscapes: designing, planning, and development, CRC Press. ISBN: 978-1-4398-9404-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Walker, G. (2008). What are the barriers and incentives for community-owned means of energy production and use? Energy Policy, 36(12), 4401–4405. Available at: Scholar
  49. 49.
    Wolsink, M. (2014). Distributed generation of sustainable energy as a common pool resource: social acceptance in rural setting of smart (micro-) grid configurations. In B. Frantál & S. Martinát (Eds.), New rural spaces: Towards renewable energies, multifunctional farming, and sustainable tourism (pp. 36–47). Brno: ÚGN.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Wolsink, M. (2013). The next phase in social acceptance of renewable innovation. EDI Quarterly, 5(1), 10–13.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SPECTRA Centre of Excellence EUSlovak University of Technology in BratislavaBratislavaSlovakia

Personalised recommendations