Ideational bricolage as a route to transforming local institutions for heat decarbonisation: Heat networks and local government in England

Jess Britton*, Bridget Woodman, Janette Webb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Heat networks could play a significant role in energy system decarbonisation. Unlike much energy infrastructure, heat networks are developed at a local-scale, raising questions about which actors and institutions, at which scales, will most effectively deliver networks. This paper examines different ideas about the role of local government and the translation of those ideas into the institutional framework for heat networks in England. The paper applies a discursive institutionalist approach to analyse ideas and discourses across three case studies and at the national level. We argue that there is a push back by local governments against the UK government dominant discourse of the efficient market in respect to heat network development. This model constitutes the role of local governments as enabling and convening actors, while emphasising techno-economic feasibility and private finance. There is, however, evidence of local governments specifying a more central ensuring role and incorporating local public goods beyond financial returns. We highlight ideational bricolage as a process by which the local state can mobilise ideational power to challenge dominant discourses. This demonstrates how powerful institutions, and their discursive components, can be disrupted – and potentially displaced – by locally led emergent, and perhaps only partially coherent, assemblages of ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-462
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning
Volume24
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • discursive institutionalism
  • heat networks
  • urban climate governance
  • local government
  • bricolage

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