Understanding the role of values in institutional change

The case of the energy transition

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The current transition towards low-carbon energy systems does not only involve changes in technologies but is also shaped by changes in the rules and regulations (i.e., the institutions) that govern energy systems. Institutional change can be influenced by changes in core values - normative principles such as affordability, security of supply, and sustainability. Analyzing this influence, however, has been hindered by the absence of a structured framework that highlights the role of values in institutional change processes. This paper presents an interdisciplinary framework explicating how values influence institutional change in the case of the energy transition. We build on a dynamic framework for institutional change that combines the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework with the concept of social learning. This basic analytical framework is expanded by conceptualizations of values in moral philosophy, institutional economics, and social psychology. Our framework offers researchers and policy makers an analytical tool to identify how values are embedded in infrastructure and existing regulation and how values shape communities and behavior. It explains how value controversies can trigger social learning processes that eventually can result in structural change. Thus, this framework allows analyzing institutional change over time as well as comparing change patterns across spatial and temporal contexts.