Three Essays on Methodologies for Dynamic Modeling of Emerging Socio-technical Systems: The Case of Smart Grid Development

Socio-technical energy transitions are long-term and major transformations in incumbent energy infrastructures. They include fundamental changes in technologies as well as institutions and social patterns. Transition studies are primarily focused on frameworks for analyzing the entire transition process by investigating the historical cases of transitions. A multi-phase approach to transition posits this process begins with a pre-development phase characterized by technological and institutional lock-ins, and resistance from incumbent actors. This period is critical for a forward-looking approach to transitions, since early developments shape path-dependent and irreversible processes leading to the emergence of new transition pathways. However, our understanding about the mechanisms and dynamics of this phase is still very limited. This is mainly due to lack of data, weak conceptualization and the necessity of developing new methods proper to deal with these limitations. This dissertation develops methodologies for investigating some complex questions arising in the pre-development phase, by focusing on the case of smart grid development. The first essay uses insights from modeling interventions in complex systems and builds a System Dynamics model to investigate the cost allocation problem of smart metering roll-out. The second essay takes ideas from Technological Innovation System approach and develops a method to analyze the emergence of spatial diversity in smart grid development by combining Social Network Analysis and Agent-Based Modeling. The third essay builds on ideas from network theory and evolutionary modeling to develop a method for identifying the main path of knowledge development and analyzing knowledge trajectories in smart grid initiatives.

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