The incandescent light bulb phase-out: Exploring patterns of framing the governance of discontinuing a socio-technical regime

Peter Stegmaier*, Vincent R. Visser, Stefan Kuhlmann

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)
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    Background: This paper aims at a better understanding of the governance of the abandonment of socio-technical regimes through the example of the incandescent light bulb phase-out in the European Union and in the Netherlands as one specific case where the EU discontinuation policy has been implemented. In particular, with this paper we focus on the active and intended discontinuation of a socio-technical regime through dedicated governance.

    Methods: The study has an explorative character, for we cannot claim to describe the entire policy process, but bring to surface some key issues in order to outline both governance foci and technicalities of governing the phase-out. We looked into how governancemakers were actually structuring the ILB phase-out as a governance task. The specific framings we found were grouped into the (a) spectrum of governance dimensions, (b) the more detailed problem-types raised, and (c) the array of discontinuation issues addressed in policy discourse dedicated to negotiating, drafting and implementing the phase-out measures.

    Results: A set of frames apparent in the discontinuation discourses in the EU and the Netherlands has been reconstructed, which entails the five governance dimensions ‘policy instruments’, ‘implementation’, ‘strictness’, ‘monitoring’, and ‘policy level’.

    Conclusions: Discontinuation has to cope with some resistance to dedicated, forced change that takes place in a technically as well as socially highly complex context. Governing the phase-out of a technical device, a production infrastructure, and industry support policy once supposed to support the EU and Dutch ILB industry was a major techno-political challenge, where policymakers needed to grasp key technical and technological problems. These were related to ILBs as objects, to subjects such as engineers and scientists, lobbyists and disinterested experts, to civil society organisations and mass media, along with all sorts of political and administrative issues and discourses. The challenges are threefold: first, translating for each other what cannot be known from one’s own background, second, shutting down governance which so far fostered lighting industry and, third, helping to change parts of this industry from an old, incumbent one to a new, emerging socio-technical regime with a regime providing a political and regulatory framework for it.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number14
    Pages (from-to)1-22
    Number of pages22
    JournalEnergy, sustainability and society
    Issue number1
    Early online date29 Apr 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


    • Discontinuation
    • Governance
    • Incandescent light bulb
    • Phase-out
    • EU
    • Netherlands
    • UT-Gold-D


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