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Governing transitions: cases and insights from two periods in the history of the UK gas industry

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Stathis Arapostathis
  • Anna Carlsson-Hyslop
  • Peter J. G. Pearson
  • Judith Thornton
  • Maria Gradillas
  • Scott Laczay
  • Suzanne Wallis
Journal publication date01/2013
JournalEnergy Policy
Number of pages20
Early online date20/09/12
Original languageEnglish


The paper aims to inform historically the analyses of future sociotechnical transition pathways in the electricity sector, particularly those developed by the Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy project. It also aims to inform the theoretical approach to transitions by focusing on key decisions at ‘branching points’ that led to transitions in the UK gas energy services regime, which occurred under different governance patterns. The first historical case study covers the market-led transformation of the manufactured gas regime from 1877 to 1914, which developed the end-uses of gas beyond lighting to include cooking, and extended access to working class consumers. The second case study covers the period from 1948 to 1977, historically reconstructing the transition from town gas to natural gas. This state-led and coordinated conversion to natural gas was preceded by a period of destabilisation of the manufactured gas regime, the co-existence of several niche technologies and the hybridisation of the key actors and technological infrastructures of the incumbent regime. Comparing the cases provides insights for future energy service transitions by addressing the significance of power, trust and networking in the decision making processes involved in the governance of energy transitions.