Design, Deregulation, and Reregulation of the Nordic Power Markets in Finland

Speaker: Dr Antti Silvast # STIS, University of Edinburgh

27th May 2015

13:00 - 14:30

Seminar Room, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards, Edinburgh


Seminar by Dr. Antti Silvast, Research Fellow in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, SSPS, University of Edinburgh

Antti has recently joined the University of Edinburgh as Post-Doctoral Fellow studying European energy policies.
Before this, he was postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies
His PhD in sociology is from the University of Helsinki, Finland. He serves as editor of Science & Technology Studies and is vice coordinator and newsletter editor of the European Sociological Association Disaster, Conflict and Social Crisis Research Network.
His seminar launches the new Energy and Society Research Occasional Seminar Series. Please join us on Weds 27 May in welcoming Antti to Edinburgh! Please bring your lunch; tea, coffee and water provided. 


The theme of this paper starts from recent energy policy discussions especially in Europe. There, it has been established that international energy market integration – such as the completion of the European internal market in electricity (IEM) – has a number of important influences. In initial IEM discussions, these included efficiency gains, security of supply, economic competitiveness, and environmental protection. Subsequently, they have been added with customer price reductions, consumer choice, higher service standards, and more recently, contributions to sustainability, energy efficiency, business opportunities, and infrastructure investments. Based on official reports, the implementation of the IEM does indeed seem to improve many of these aims. Yet, the details of how infrastructure markets are designed, how they operate, and how they may also fail are often overlooked within these discussions. My paper interrogates this issue by drawing from an important contribution of Science and Technology Studies (STS) in the social studies of finance: the concept of performativity. The research question is: Have energy market mechanisms become “performative” for the electricity infrastructure? That is to say, does energy market design shape the electricity infrastructure to operate in a way that corresponds more closely with economic theory than before? To address this question, the paper explores different, initially linguistic, “performativity” theses in social science discussions and selects a particular version of the notion. This is in STS scholar Donald MacKenzie’s (2007) recent work, where a taxonomy is made between generic performativity (the use of economic theories, models, concepts, data, or procedures by actors), effective performativity (the practical effects of this use), Barnesian performativity (a subset of the previous where economic actions start to conform to economic theory), and its opposite, counter-performativity (where such actions become less like economic theory). Working from this perspective, I study Barnesian and counter-performativity in action by exploring how the effects of economic theory became tangible in the design of the Nordic power markets and their national regulation especially in Finland. Security of supply, consumer protection, infrastructure investment issues, lacking crisis preparedness, and unusual market price spikes are discussed in this context alongside the notion of counter-performativity. I claim this dynamic is further opened up by utilising what sociologist Michel Callon (1998) names as framing and over-flowing of economic decision making: the relationship between operationalizations of economic agents and the ways in which they defy framing and thus create market failures that need to be contained by further regulation.