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Exploring sustainability transitions in the iron and steel industry: A case study from Sweden
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Sustainability and Industrial Dynamics. (Sustainability and Industrial Dynamics)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5617-1912
KK-stiftelsen.
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Sustainability and Industrial Dynamics.
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The iron and steel industry accounts for one third of global industrial CO2 emissions (IEA, 2015a), putting transformative pressures on the industry to shift towards more sustainable modes of production.  Steel is widely used in every country and almost all industries, with a growing trend around the globe. There is a common agreement that the industry needs to improve the energy efficiency, recycle more and switch to low-carbon production processes (IEA, 2015a; Rynikiewicz, 2008; Sridhar and Li, 2016; WSA, 2016). However, this transitions requires a lengthy and complex process at which radical innovations are required to reduce the emissions and ,thus, facilitate the sustainability transitions (Wesseling et al., 2016).

In this study, we focus on the iron and steel industry in Sweden – a rarely studied context in the field of sustainability transitions. The country is the host of SSAB AB, known to be a promising steel company to lead the sustainability transitions of the industry worldwide (Fryer et al., 2016), as well as the LKAB, which is the EU´s largest iron ore producer with 78% market share (LKAB, 2016). The SSAB and LKAB, together with the Swedish policy makers and Vattenfall – as electricity supplier –, committed themselves making Sweden to be the first place to reach zero-carbon steel production (PC, 2016). However, despite the ambitious goals, a few decades might be needed. For example, much is expected from the radical innovations, such as the hydrogen based reduction technology (HYBRIT, 2016), which are still at the experimental stage. Thus, we raise the following research question: What are the possible pathways for sustainability transitions in the iron and steel industry in Sweden? The case in Sweden is highly relevant for the field of sustainability transitions because there is a collective guidance and governance towards carbon free steel production (PR, 2017). As a method, we choose an explorative case study approach (Yin, 2003). We combine primary qualitative data, such as semi structured interviews, with secondary data, such as reports, papers and press materials. This data is used to discuss the possible transition pathways for the industry.

Our case study relates to the ongoing research in sustainability transitions studies, especially in regards to the literature on technological innovation systems (Bergek et al., 2015; Hekkert et al., 2007; Walrave and Raven, 2016) and transitions pathways (Geels and Schot, 2007; Geels et al., 2016). On the one hand, the case of hydrogen based reduction technology demonstrates a combination of strengths and weaknesses of the functions in the innovation system. For instance, the knowledge exchange and guidance for research are significantly high, while the market formation is still at its very early stage. On the other hand, incumbent actors try to reorient themselves towards a new radical technology (i.e., hydrogen based reduction technology) which may lead to both a technical substitution and a reconfiguration of the system components. Thus, this case (initially) shows some characteristics from two distinct transition pathways: transformation and reconfiguration. Although the shifts between the pathways are recently discussed in the literature (Geels et al., 2016), an overlap between them is a relatively new phenomenon which needs further investigation. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Engineering and Technology Economics Economic Geography Environmental Management
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-211479OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-211479DiVA, id: diva2:1129398
Conference
The 8th International Sustainability Transitions Conference, 18 - 21 June, Gothenburg, Sweden
Projects
Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (Grant No. MMW 2013.0194)
Funder
Knowledge FoundationMarianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, 2013.0194
Note

QC 20170807

Available from: 2017-08-02 Created: 2017-08-02 Last updated: 2018-01-10Bibliographically approved

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