This article explores innovative approaches adopted by local energy initiatives to create networks that enable grassroots technological innovations to facilitate the local energy transition to a more sustainable system. The authors examine the different components, actors, and phases of a project initiation to better understand how relationships at the grassroot levels can be built to enable these innovations. They conclude with lessons on how local energy initiatives can improve their networking capabilities.
Through various theories such as the “actor-network theory”, the authors seek to understand how local-level technological innovations are developed and identify the key elements influencing the process. They then analyze the development of networks in four stages during which ideas are conceptualized, problematized, interpositioned , and substantiated. Furthermore, they highlight the power imbalance that often emerges between energy initiatives and other stakeholders, such as banks, arguing that this could lead to a one-side-relationship that can further complicate network building. In addition, they discuss the importance of non-human “actants”, such as the environment, money, and other materials, during project development. Next, they also examine the innovation process by using case studies to better understand how local energy initiatives engage with different stakeholders.
Finally, the authors conclude with lessons on how grassroot-level energy initiatives can better develop socio-technical innovations for renewable energy, while harnessing local opportunities and talents. They argue that more scrutiny is needed at the start of a project to make it convincing, and even more importantly, to ensure all aspects of the project are well-aligned. In addition, they offer recommendations for future research to: scale up evidence on socio-technical innovations across the world; provide conceptual guidance on how relationships between stakeholders are built; and better understand existing policy frameworks that support these innovations.