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System Innovation and the Transition to Sustainability

Theory, Evidence and Policy

Edited by Boelie Elzen, Frank W. Geels and Ken Green

This book considers two main questions: how do system innovations or transitions come about and how can they be influenced by different actors, in particular by governments. The authors identify the theories which can be used to conceptualise the dynamics of system innovations and discuss the weaknesses in these theories. They also look at the lessons which can be learned from historical examples of transitions, and highlight the instruments and policy tools which can be used to stimulate future system innovations towards sustainability. The expert contributors address these questions using insights from a variety of different disciplines including innovation studies, evolutionary economics, the sociology of technology, environmental analysis and governance studies. The book concludes with an extensive summary of the results and practical suggestions for future research.
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Chapter 6: The Transition from Coal to Gas: Radical Change of the Dutch Gas System

Aad Correljé and Geert Verbong


Aad Correljé and Geert Verbong INTRODUCTION From the early 1960s onwards, a new system of gas supply was introduced in the Netherlands, based on the massive amounts of natural gas found in Groningen, in the north of the country. The subsequent construction of a gas transport network made this gas available throughout the country and Western Europe. It provided the Dutch economy with a relatively cheap, reliable and clean source of energy, while households enjoyed the conveniences of gas-fired central heating, cooking and hot water supply. The enormous revenues the state was able to collect permitted the growth and maintenance of the generous Dutch welfare state (Correljé et al., 2003). At the time of the discovery of Groningen, a significant shift in the Dutch energy economy was already taking place. Figure 6.1 illustrates the evolution of Dutch energy use. The transition from coal to oil had started long before the extraordinary opportunities offered by the Groningen gas accelerated the restructuring of the energy sector. Coal was confronted with competition from increasingly low-cost oil products from the end of the 1950s onwards. Even before the Second World War, the importance of coal had started to fall, and between 1952 and 1962 the share of coal fell from 80 per cent of total energy consumption to below 50 per cent, coal being supplanted by oil. However after 1962 the exponential growth of energy consumption was completely covered by natural gas. Within a decade natural gas had become the major...

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