Integrating techno-economic, socio-technical and political perspectives on national energy transitions: A meta-theoretical framework

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Economic development, technological innovation, and policy change are especially prominent factors shaping energy transitions. Therefore explaining energy transitions requires combining insights from disciplines investigating these factors. The existing literature is not consistent in identifying these disciplines nor proposing how they can be combined. We conceptualize national energy transitions as a co-evolution of three types of systems: energy flows and markets, energy technologies, and energy-related policies. The focus on the three types of systems gives rise to three perspectives on national energy transitions: techno-economic with its roots in energy systems analysis and various domains of economics; socio-technical with its roots in sociology of technology, STS, and evolutionary economics; and political with its roots in political science. We use the three perspectives as an organizing principle to propose a meta-theoretical framework for analyzing national energy transitions. Following Elinor Ostrom's approach, the proposed framework explains national energy transitions through a nested conceptual map of variables and theories. In comparison with the existing meta-theoretical literature, the three perspectives framework elevates the role of political science since policies are likely to be increasingly prominent in shaping 21st century energy transitions.


  • Aleh Cherp
  • Vadim Vinichenko
  • Jessica Jewell
  • Elina Brutschin
  • Benjamin Sovacool
External organisations
  • Central European University
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • University of Bergen
  • University of Sussex
  • Webster Vienna Private University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Co-evolution, Energy transitions, Meta-theoretical framework, Variables
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-190
Number of pages16
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 1
Publication categoryResearch

Related research output

Jessica Jewell, Vadim Vinichenko, Lola Nacke & Aleh Cherp, 2019, In: Nature Climate Change. 9, 8, p. 592-597

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