Navigating implementation dilemmas in technology-forcing policies: A comparative analysis of accelerated smart meter diffusion in the Netherlands, UK, Norway, and Portugal (2000-2019)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionResearch Policy. 2021, 50(7), 104272 10.1016/j.respol.2021.104272
This paper addresses the implementation of technology-forcing policies in open-ended diffusion processes that involve companies and regulators as well as consumers and civil society actors. Mobilising insights from the societal embedding of technology framework and policy steering theories, we investigate two implementation dilemmas that relate to an overarching tension between flexibility (to enable technological learning and stakeholder engagement) and coordinated push (to focus actors and drive deployment): a) early or late formulation of initial targets, and b) technocratic or emergent-adaptive implementation styles. We investigate these dilemmas with four comparative case studies of smart electricity meters between 2000 to 2019, which diffused rapidly in the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal, but decelerated in the UK. We relate these differences to policy choices, and identify two patterns for successful implementation of technology-forcing policies: a) start with early targets and a technocratic style, but make adjustments if there are substantial protests or technical problems, and b) start with an emergent-adaptive style and formulate and enforce targets later, once technical and social stabilisation has occurred.