University of Sussex

File(s) not publicly available

An 'innovation histories' approach to community energy case studies

posted on 2023-06-08, 11:44 authored by Sabine Hielscher, Adrian SmithAdrian Smith, Tom Hargreaves
The Community Innovation in Sustainable Energy (CISE) project is undertaking 12 case studies of community energy. These are part of a range of research activities aiming to understand how community groups and networks provide ‘niche spaces’ for sustainable energy innovation, and relationships between these spaces and wider energy developments. Given our innovation focus, we have adapted an ‘innovation histories’ approach to case studies (inspired by Bath University’s ‘Low Carbon Works’ project and the Institutional Learning and Change Initiative). It was also informed by our content analysis of 113 third party case studies of community energy in the UK (whose accounts tend to be quite closed and singular). Our presentation will explain our approach. Our histories gather evidence and accounts from in-depth interviews and project meetings, and from published materials and project websites. Our field-work encouraged key individuals to reflect on their own actions and how they are linked with the actions of others. In following participant narratives, our intention was to capture the human stories, uncertainties, set-backs and successes across multiple activities that constitute innovation, compared to more conventional technology development accounts. Our innovation histories are presented in a narrative format that juxtaposes quotes from core participants, the researcher’s own reflections on key developments, and wider theoretical insights relating to the innovation and diffusion of community energy. The format has been well-received by participants. We conclude by discussing how the histories contribute to a rethinking of niche spaces for sustainable innovation at both project scale and ‘niche’ scale.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

CLUES conference

Event location

UCL, London

Event type


Event date

8 May 2012

Department affiliated with

  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected