The wicked problem of a low carbon energy transition - Structure, agency and framing in the multi-actor process of solar PV deployment in Finland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


  • Teresa Haukkala

Research units


Climate change is a wicked problem, inextricably bound up with environmental and sustainability issues. Policies responding to wicked problems are neither good nor bad, and there seem to be no solutions. Due to the urgency to mitigate climate change, there is a need for a more sustainable energy transition, which has likewise proved to be a wicked problem. Renewable energy that produces fewer or no greenhouse gas emissions meets with resistance, and a higher deployment of solar PV in Finland has not been easy to implement. This thesis addresses the equally wicked problem of a low carbon energy transition in Finland by examining the multi-actor process of solar PV deployment in Finland from the perspective of the classic social science triangle of structure, agency and framing. This interdisciplinary study draws on several research traditions. It adopts an analytic eclecticism approach that aims to integrate concepts and theories into a middle-range theory. The thesis also extends the timeline of energy transitions to include past energy transitions, and outlines possible alternatives for a future energy system. The research questions in the thesis are organized according to structure, agency and framing: How do the old structures act as barriers? What are the structural barriers that hinder a higher deployment of solar energy in Finland, and an energy transition in general? How can they be overcome? How have the advocacy coalitions been formed? How have the actor positions and interactions between the advocacy coalitions changed? How well have they achieved their targets? How have the framings changed? The thesis is based on four separate research papers. Three of the papers have been published in international peer-reviewed journals and one is an unpublished manuscript. The findings show that barriers related to policy, business and consumers exist with regard to solar PV deployment. The most significant of these involve the lack of political will and a support policy, vested interests towards the current energy regime, the low competitiveness of solar PV, and general attitudes. These can be overcome with new policies, regulation and behaviour. When it comes to barriers concerning structure, namely vested interests, path dependence and lock-in, the state should take a more active role in policies that are conducive to structural change. The thesis also finds that there is a new energy political situation in Finland characterized by proponents of a green-transition on the one hand, and the old traditional coalition of energy producers and large industrial incumbents on the other. The advocacy position of different groups during the solar energy field framing process has also been influenced by how strongly they argued for or against the deployment of solar energy. The framings changed over time from accentuating a future energy system, moving to economic promise, and towards a struggling, competing position.


Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8500-5
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8501-2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

    Research areas

  • energy transition, socio-technical change, solar energy, structure, agency, framing

ID: 33310764