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Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Political Science | Science and Technology Studies
Global climate change is one of the defining political challenges and opportunities of the current era. Experts widely agree that technical means already exist for making the necessary transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy; the obstacles to doing so are primarily political. Careful observers also recognize that this period of transition creates an opening for political innovation and development. How can the political will be generated to take action to prevent climate catastrophe? And what will the process of transitioning mean for the political systems that have been built on cheap and abundant oil? Political scientists have largely ignored technological development as a lever for political development, or feared that technology could only be a force of domination. Yet renewable energy enthusiasts have often seen democratizing potential in these technologies. What can be accomplished politically by building a wind turbine? As countries like Denmark accumulate decades of experience with renewable energy, it is becoming possible to give such questions close empirical consideration. Denmark generates more of its electricity from renewable sources, and has been doing so longer, than any other industrialized nation, making it a uniquely valuable case for studying an advanced renewable energy transition in progress. This dissertation draws on novel qualitative and quantitative data to present the first comprehensive history of Denmark’s energy transition from its roots in the 1970s until the present, aiming to explain how this tiny nation emerged as the world’s leading wind power producer, and assess whether this process has yielded any democratic dividends. The multi-method analysis sheds new light on internal dynamics of Denmark’s energy transition, and, more generally, on late-stage evolutionary processes in mature technological systems. Many studies have shown an interest in the Danish case, which is usually presented as a relatively unqualified success story, but few have provided the empirical resolution to identify these complicating factors. This dissertation employs an explanatory strategy adapted from the ecological sciences to construct a more holistic and integrative portrait, resulting in a more thorough and accurate account of how Denmark jumped out to such a significant lead in the energy transition, and why that momentum might be flagging today, with implications for other countries hoping to chart a path toward a sustainable future.
Darrow, Robert, "Alternative Power: The Politics of Denmark's Renewable Energy Transition" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations. 2976.