This article explores the interplay between Strategic Action Fields (SAFs) and institutional work to understand how actors influence policy regarding integrated local energy systems, which combine heat, power, and mobility. The research highlights the significant barriers to sustainable energy SAFs due to government power and governance limitations, raising doubts about achieving net zero under existing governance structures.

The concept of Strategic Action Fields (SAF) is combined with analysis of institutional work to investigate the tactics actors adopt to support or deter policy for integrated local energy systems. Integrating heat, power, and mobility systems at local or regional scale would entail highly significant changes in energy systems yet is an area of increasing policy interest. We explore how this field is being constituted differently across the devolved jurisdictions of Great Britain, but faces similar challenges. The obduracy of legacy centralised institutions is a powerful force in blocking new sustainable energy SAFs, with Government retaining significant countervailing power. Additionally we demonstrate how overlaps between policy domains can obstruct the formation of new rule structures; notably emerging local energy planning rules are constrained by wider limitations in devolved governance powers. These findings raise questions about whether net zero can happen, and in what form, under current multi-level governance structures.


Jess Britton and Janette Webb

Publication details

J Britton and J Webb. 2024. Institutional work and social skill: the formation of strategic action fields for local energy systems in Britain. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.