Empowering sustainable niches: Comparing UK and Dutch offshore wind developments

Florian Kern, Bram Verhees, Rob Raven, Adrian Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Offshore wind has been positioned as a promising technology that could play a major role in moving towards more sustainable energy systems, but deployment varies significantly across countries. This article aims to explain the contrast between the boom in the UK versus stagnation in The Netherlands, by analysing the niche empowerment dynamics building on Smith and Raven's (2012) distinction between 'fit and conform' and 'stretch and transform' strategies. Analysis focuses on the actor networks and the narratives they use to enrol support for the deployment of the technology. We conclude that because the narratives mobilised are quite similar in both cases, an explanation must lie with the actors. We argue that the UK's relative success is partly the result of the presence of a proactive 'system builder' in the form of the Crown Estate which plays a central role in powerful public-private actor networks around offshore wind. We also conclude that the Smith and Raven 'protected space' framework fails to capture how different national institutional settings shape the possibilities for empowering work of technology advocates as our analysis shows that despite the highly international nature of the offshore wind sector, attempts by multi-national companies result in different outcomes in different countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-355
Number of pages12
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Empowering
  • Niches
  • Offshore wind energy
  • Protective space
  • Sustainability transitions
  • Technology politics

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