Research

Institutional Entrepreneurship and Renewable Energy in the U.S.

Overview

This project explores the mechanisms that allow actors in different settings to coordinate and create the institutions required to sustain a new market. What is interesting about renewable energy in general and offshore wind in particular is that, across settings, the issues that prevent market emergence are relatively simple and well understood; the stakeholder groups are similar and stable; the overall desire to create a market –for environmental, political, and/or economic reasons—is considerable; and yet, there is significant variance in the strategies followed to create a market and the success of these strategies. What actors agree on across settings and stakeholder groups is that no market is possible until new institutions are created.

The question of the factors that allow certain actors—and not others—to create new institutions is thus relevant and important. The complexity of the issues means that in-depth, qualitative methods are a promising avenue to approach them. In particular, this project consists of several stages. The first entails a series of in-depth, ethnographic interviews with actors from a diverse set of settings and stakeholder groups. These interviews were designed to a) provide a clear map of the relevant stakeholders within each setting, b) identify the main process, challenges, and level of success observed in different settings, and c) provide enough background information to allow for the careful selection of cases to explore in full depth. A second stage entails the selection of two to four well-matched cases (for information on matched comparisons see George and Bennett, 2004) where a deeper set of interviews, ethnographic observations, and archival data will be collected. The goal of these matched comparisons is to flesh out the specific mechanisms that allow for more successful coordination between actors, independent of broader structural characteristics and constraints.

To achieve the objective of this project, over thirty in-depth, ethnographic interviews were conducted (some on-site in different states of New England) with representatives of each of the relevant stakeholder groups including environmentalists, developers, utilities, turbine manufacturers, local and federal policy makers, and academia. Interviews lasted, on average, 1.5 hours and yielded more than 500 pages of rich qualitative data. These interviews allowed the detection of two cases that will be matched as comparisons (Delaware and Rhode Island), to begin delving deeper into the processes followed at each state, and to gather rich archival information from both—including press articles, conference proceedings, public hearing minutes, public utility commission documents, etc.

Project Outcomes

This grant has allowed the research team to complete the first stage and make considerable progress in the second stage of the project. The research team has made big advances in the process of data collection, and as the process continues for giving critical interviews and gathering relevant materials, the researchers have begun the process of coding and analyzing the rich data, as well as detecting initial themes that will continue to guide the research throughout the year.

Related Publications

The research team has outlined and is in the process of writing a practitioner-oriented article discussing the critical themes that have emerged from the analysis and that can inform practitioners involved in processes of market creation.

Related Presentations

The principal author has discussed the preliminary findings and the analytical process in two academic conferences, where the work was well received.

Use and Applicatons

The identification of the case through this study has certainly informed Professor Canales’ teaching of the Innovator perspective. This article in progress will potentially be useful for classes that explore issues of market functioning and market creation, business-government relations, non-market strategy, and renewable energy.

The grant provided the researchers leverage to raise an additional $5,000 from a group of Yale donors interested in Social Enterprise and renewable energy.

Photo from Tobias von der Haar/flickr