Geography, urbanization and lock-in – considerations for sustainable transitions to decentralized energy systems

Benjamin C. McLellan, Andrew J. Chapman, Kazumasu Aoki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The importance of moving towards sustainable energy systems is critical to achieving societal sustainability. Transitions theory is a useful approach to look at the potential and limitations of systemic transitions, and has been applied in a number of alternative contexts. In the current study, we examine transitions theory and its implications for the progress of decentralized energy systems in Japan in the period after the Fukushima accident of 2011. Empirical data from a targeted nation-wide survey is used to examine the progress and change in consumer preference and behavior since the disaster, as possible evidence for the potential transition paths likely to be occurring. Importantly, this study utilizes data that examines a spectrum of urban–rural and disaster–non-disaster areas in order to explore whether any differences in response patterns were present. Results indicate that although the desire of stakeholders has been to change the energy system, there are barriers to transformation. Variation between rural and urban sites and between disaster-affected and unaffected areas was examined, indicating that (at least under the chosen classification) there was surprisingly little difference. The results have implications for understanding transitions at a much broader level, and imply that, if the empirical data is a useful indicator, Japan is within a locked-in or reorganization transition. In order to move to a more radical conversion type change a new approach is likely to be required to nurture niche innovations effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-96
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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