Keywords: electricity sector, Australia, energy policy, renewable energy policy, science and technology studies, sustainable energy policy, wind power, sustainability, wind power, power generation, social shaping of technology, environmental technology, policy evolution
Deploying wind power in Australia: a socio-technical analysis
Conventional explanations for Australia's historically scant use of wind energy in power generation have focused on wind power's cost and undesirable technical characteristics (particularly intermittency). This paper argues for a more comprehensive explanatory framework, drawing on insights from the Social Shaping of Technology. This framework combines contextual historical and interpretive approaches to analyse this history of wind power. The contextual historical approach deals with the structure of and changes to the Australian electricity sector and the evolution of renewable energy policy, which have shaped the use of wind power. This approach is supplemented with an analysis of how wind power has been interpreted by various protagonists over time and how the interpretations have shaped the way in which wind power has been promoted or rejected. Wind power has been widely regarded as an 'environmental technology', a notion that has embodied a variety of sociopolitical visions. Wind power also exhibits different technical characteristics to conventional generators, and yet is required to fit into an existing system. Hence wind power's technical capability has been a source of much debate.