Energy Systems in Transition: Inter- and Transdisciplinary Contributions

9th – 11th of October 2013 at Karlsruhe, Germany

The energy transformations in Germany and in many other countries worldwide include the rapid expansion of renewable energy sources, an ambitious increase in energy efficiency and, at least in Germany and several other countries, an accelerated phase-out of nuclear energy. These goals place substantial demands on energy research and energy policy making. This transformation is not only a technical but also a societal challenge. It requires an effective, efficient and socially compatible integration of technological development, organisational structure and behavioural adaptations. This integration is crucial for the energy transition to succeed.
What challenges are associated with this envisioned transition?
Necessary changes in user and consumer behaviour;
Acceptance problems and conflicts relating to new infrastructures such as hydro-storage power plants or high-voltage lines;

  • Incentive systems and suitable political and economic conditions for initiating and promoting the necessary innovations;
  • Handling complex, uncertain and ambiguous risks associated with new energy systems;
  • Integration of public participation in formal planning processes;
  • Adequate operator models for decentralised energy systems.

For meeting these challenges, research activities need to investigate the systemic interactions between technology, organisation and behaviour at regional, national and supranational level. Research needs to emphasise the demand side of energy systems and to focus on user needs, integrated scenario building, innovation diffusion, infrastructure planning, and risk governance. The interfaces between technical and societal factors that significantly influence the prospects for the envisioned transformation process need to be investigated. Proposals for designing effective, efficient and socially compatible transformation strategies towards a sustainable energy future have to be developed. New knowledge has to be fed into social debates, stakeholder discussions and the political consultation process in a format that is appropriate to the relevant target audience.
Against this background, the aim of the conference is to address this broad variety of interconnected topics and create room for presenting an interdisciplinary portfolio of approaches and research findings. Conceptual as well as empirical studies from different disciplinary backgrounds (such as transition management, STS, environmental psychology, technology assessment, economics, social responses to energy technologies and infrastructure, sociology, political science, legal studies, and investigations about planning processes etc.) and in particular interdisciplinary contributions are highly welcomed. We explicitly invite analyses from various countries as comparative studies facilitate mutual learning processes.
The conference will include invited papers (providing reviews), oral presentations and poster sessions. The presenters of papers and posters are encouraged to address the following topics:

  1. Concepts, scenarios or modelling approaches with an integrative perspective on energy transitions taking explicit account of the interface between technology, economic development and social changes;
  2. Criteria/indicators for assessing the sustainability of energy transitions as well as tensions/conflicts between different dimensions of sustainability related to the environmental and societal implications as well as the economic performance (including approaches such as the “lead markets” concept);
  3. Governance of energy innovations with a particular focus on path dependencies or path creation; contributions might also address the motivations, strategies, or expectations of different actors in the energy system;
  4. The role of subnational governance levels (including regional/local energy independence or even autarky) for enabling or facilitating energy transitions. In this context, technical, political and behavioural aspects of cooperative governance structures and processes are of special interest; aspects of decentralisation might be addressed as well;
  5. Determinants of individual and group-related behaviour with respect to energy consumption of households and industry and instruments to influence this behaviour (incentives, coordination, communication); this might include new insights into rebound phenomena or on side effects of monetary incentives;
  6. Potentials and limits of public/stakeholder participation in formal or informal planning procedures with respect to energy-related infrastructure projects;
  7. Challenges and approaches for communicating complex and uncertain research results to a wider policy and public audience;
  8. Scientific concepts and methods, governance approaches, regulations or policy packages with an explicit focus on “risks and uncertainties”. In this context, also the tension between flexibility and stability in long-term infrastructure planning might be addressed.

The conference organisers invite contributions from different disciplinary perspectives. The main objective is to gain a better understanding about the conditions, dynamics and impacts of energy transitions towards sustainability. Energy systems are understood as complex socio-technical systems that require transdisciplinary methods and a focus on policy and action oriented research.

The conference programme will entail high-level keynote speeches, parallel thematic sessions as well as a policy-meets-science event.

For more information and for submitting an abstract please go to “papers submission“.


The deadline for submitting abstracts is Thursday, the 14th of February 2013.

Acceptance of papers will be notified by the beginning of April 2013.

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