Grand visions and pragmatic integration: Exploring the evolution of Europe’s electricity regime

Vincent Lagendijk, Ronan Bolton*, Antti Silvast

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this paper we develop a socio-technical analysis of the European electricity system. We show that the relationship between high-level grand visions of an integrated European system and more pragmatic bottom-up processes of electricity system development have been a feature of the European regime for coordinating cross-border electricity flows since the 1920s. Following a period when radically different visions of a European system were proposed, the nation-state emerged as the key site of system building and constituted the core of the technological and institutional configuration. However, European grand visions persisted and this led to the creation of various forms of transnational collaboration and coordination. We discuss whether this inherited technological and institutional configuration is compatible with the contemporary desire for a European low-carbon transition and we emphasise the need for more detailed analysis of socio-technical regimes and their dynamics to inform policy and enrich transitions theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-68
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental innovation and societal transitions
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Energy union
  • Internal electricity market
  • Low carbon transitions
  • Socio-technical regimes


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