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Waste(d) potential: a socio-technical analysis of biogas production and use in Sweden
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Energy Systems. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology. Linköping University, Biogas Research Center.
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, Biogas Research Center.
2015 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, Vol. 98, 107-115 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper takes a socio-technical perspective on Swedish biogas production and use, in order to identify characteristics which may improve and increase biogas production. Biogas could potentially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Swedish road transport by 25%, and to that end transport policy endorses the use of biogas as vehicle fuel. Currently, however, only a small fraction of the biogas production potential is utilised. By analysing how social and technological context has influenced production and use of biogas over the past 70 years, using concepts from the theory of Large Technical Systems (LTS), features of importance for increasing biogas production are identified. Biogas is shown to be a complex issue, with different functions within the energy, transport and waste management systems. As there is not one coherent biogas system but many individual systems, with different objectives, local and sectorial measures are required in order to increase biogas production. In particular, the importance of biogas production as waste management is identified. In order to utilise the biogas potential and reduce GHG emissions from road transport, policy-makers and researchers are advised to address the plurality in biogas systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015. Vol. 98, 107-115 p.
Keyword [en]
Biogas, socio-technical systems analysis, greenhouse gas emissions, waste treatment
National Category
Energy Systems Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-112507DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.02.015ISI: 000356194300011OAI: diva2:766956
Swedish Energy Agency
Available from: 2014-11-28 Created: 2014-11-28 Last updated: 2015-08-27
In thesis
1. Sociotechnical system studies of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from energy and transport systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sociotechnical system studies of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from energy and transport systems
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

It is agreed that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from energy and transport systems must be reduced. Technical means exist to reduce GHG emissions from these sources. However, these emission-reduction measures are not implemented to a high enough degree. In this thesis, it is assumed that this is because the reduction of GHG emissions from energy and transport systems is a wicked problem. Unlike a tame problem, which has an unambiguous definition and a finite number of well-defined solutions, a wicked problem is difficult to define, and its solutions are often intertwined with the problem. The “wickedness” of a wicked problem lies in the extreme difficulty of solving the problem, rather than in the problem itself.

In this thesis, the wicked problem of reducing GHG emissions from energy and transport systems is studied by applying a sociotechnical systems approach to the introduction of renewable vehicle fuels, the production and use of biogas, the introduction of electric vehicles, and the sustainability of district heating. In addition, this thesis discusses how energy issues are approached in different contexts, and what implications different actions can have on GHG emissions. The analysis shows that a sociotechnical approach to energy systems analysis can offer insights with regard to how system boundaries are handled within GHG-emission assessments and energy and transport policy. By problematising the use of system boundaries in GHG-emission assessments, this thesis explains how attempts to reduce GHG emissions could add to the wicked problem of GHGemission reductions from energy and transport systems. GHG-emission assessments can give very different results depending on system boundaries. While these results can be used in attempts to solve this wicked problem, they can also contribute to complicating it. As solutions to wicked problems are mainly found in policy, the use of system boundaries in policy is studied. Results show that narrow system boundaries in energy and transport policy can hamper sustainable development of energy and transport systems. The use of wider system boundaries could facilitate approaches to solve the wicked problem of reducing GHG emissions from energy and transport systems by making the consequences and effects of policy actions more clearly visible.

Abstract [sv]

Det är välkänt att energi- och transportsystemens utsläpp av växthusgaser måste minska. Tekniska förutsättningar för att minska utsläppen av växthusgaser från användning av energi och transporter existerar. Ändå genomförs inte åtgärder för att minska utsläpp av växthusgaser i tillräcklig utsträckning. I föreliggande avhandling antas detta bero på att minskandet av utsläpp av växthusgaser från energi- och transportsystem är ett ’wicked problem’. Ett sådant problem är svårdefinierat och motståndskraftigt mot lösningar, eftersom lösningarna ofta är sammanflätade med problemet.

I avhandlingen studeras frågan om hur utsläpp av växthusgaser från energi- och transportsystem kan minska. Introduktion av förnybara drivmedel, produktion och användning av biogas, introduktion av elbilar, samt hållbarhet i fjärrvärmesystem är områden som studeras med hjälp av ett sociotekniskt angreppssätt. Detta innebär att teknik studeras som en integrerad del av samhället, där teknik både påverkar och påverkas av aktörer och sociala strukturer.

Analysen visar att ett sociotekniskt angreppssätt kan ge insikter om hur systemgränser hanteras inom energisystemforskning samt inom energi- och transportpolicy. Värderingar av växthusgasutsläpp, som utförs inom energisystemforskning, kan ge vitt skilda resultat beroende på hur det studerade systemet avgränsats. Resultaten kan användas i försök att minska utsläpp av växthusgaser från energi- och transportsystem, men detta kan leda till att problemet försvåras ytterligare. I avhandlingen förklaras detta genom problematisering av systemavgränsningar i värderingar av växthusgasutsläpp. Eftersom lösningar på ’wicked problems’ oftast återfinns inom policy, studeras även systemavgränsningar i policy. Det visas att snäva systemgränser inom energi- och transportpolicy kan hindra hållbar utveckling av energi- och transportsystem. Vidgade systemgränser skulle kunna underlätta ansatser att minska utsläpp av växthusgaser från energi och transportsystem genom att synliggöra konsekvenser och effekter av policyåtgärder.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2015. 54 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1656
Energy systems, transport systems, greenhouse gas emissions, energy policy, transport policy, sociotechnical systems analysis, wicked problem, Energisystem, transportsystem, växthusgasutsläpp, energipolicy, transportpolicy, socioteknisk systemanalys, wicked problem
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Energy Systems
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-116685 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-116685 (DOI)978-91-7519-082-2 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-05-08, ACAS, hus A, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2015-03-31 Created: 2015-03-31 Last updated: 2015-04-17Bibliographically approved

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