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A scientific article that changes the world

Researchers at ITAS have developed a monitoring system to assess the sustainability of the energy transition. Their corresponding publication has now been nominated by Springer Nature’s “Change the World” initiative.
ITAS-Monitoring System zur sozio-technischen Energiewende
“We simply have to change the world” – the editors-in-chief of Springer Nature see the potential to do so in the ITAS monitoring system for the socio-technical energy transition. (Picture: pexels/CC0)

The transformation of the energy system from fossil and nuclear energy carriers to renewable ones is a key challenge for securing a decent human life in the long term for the 8 to 10 billion people expected in the future. The transformation is not limited to technical infrastructures such as power plants, power lines, or energy storage facilities. Major changes can also be found in the field of society or the economy. In this way, the defined roles in the energy sector shift towards “prosumers” who do not only consume energy but also produce it themselves.

At the same time, the supply with green electricity or the foundation of energy cooperatives change the “world of energy”. In addition, the energy transition brought about social conflicts, for example due to the increased land consumption of wind farms, PV fields, or for the cultivation of energy crops compared to the centralized large-scale power plants of the old energy system.

Indicators for socio-technical change

To make political stakeholders able to systematically examine the transformation at the socio-technical interface, scientist at ITAS have developed a monitoring system. For this purpose, the team – Christine Rösch, Klaus-Rainer Bräutigam, Jürgen Kopfmüller, Volker Stelzer, and Patrick Lichtner – has formulated 45 indicators, relating to acceptance, participation, or energy poverty, among others. Target values for 2020, 2030, and 2050 enable the federal government to assess whether the transformation is heading in the right direction and whether it is taking place at a sufficient speed. The basis for this assessment is the “Integrative Concept of Sustainable Development” (PDF), a concept for systematic sustainability assessment developed at ITAS.

The monitoring concept was first presented by the researchers in January 2017 in the “Energy, Sustainability and Society” journal. In June 2018, the editors-in-chief of the Springer Nature journals added it to their list of contributions with the “potential to change the world”. (05.07.2018)

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