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ENERGY-TRANS: Systemic risks in energy infrastructures

ENERGY-TRANS: Systemic risks in energy infrastructures
Project team:

Büscher, Christian (Project leader); Andreas Lösch; Patrick Sumpf


Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

Start date:


End date:


Research area:

Knowledge society and knowledge policy

Project description

Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS overview

The Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS was a large third-party funded project of ITAS. All ITAS research areas were involved and linked in the Alliance with sub-projects. ENERGY-TRANS research focused on the energy transition and related requirements for the transformation of the energy system. Core assumption of ENERGY-TRANS was that this transformation does not only include technical, but also different societal challenges.

Important issues are, for example, changes in user and consumer behavior, acceptance problems and conflicts relating to new infrastructures such as high-voltage lines, suitable political and economic conditions for initiating and promoting the necessary innovations, adequate operator models for decentralized energy systems, and also handling complex, uncertain and ambiguous risks associated with new energy systems. To meet these challenges, the Helmholtz Alliance has launched a research program that investigated the systemic interactions between technology, organization, and behavior in Germany. The emphasis was on the demand side of energy systems and focused on user needs, integrated scenario building, innovation diffusion, infrastructure planning, and risk governance.

More than 80 social and political scientists, psychologists and philosophers, economists, legal scholars, engineers and systems analysts from nine institutions collaborated in five research fields, 17 projects, two horizontal tasks and two integrative key topics. The KIT coordinated the Alliance which ran from September 2011 until December 2016.

Besides the University of Stuttgart, ITAS provided the largest research contingent and participated in ENERGY-TRANS with about 20 scientists. Corresponding to the complex tasks of ENERGY-TRANS, the Alliance integrated ITAS expertise from all research areas. The highly interdisciplinary research also addressed important issues of the Helmholtz program “Technology, Innovation and Society” (TIS).

Systemic risks in energy infrastructures

In future energy infrastructures, information and communication technologies (ICT) will play a larger part in managing a more virtualized and decentralized energy supply and provide additional consumer services to enhance energy efficiency. ICT infrastructures increasingly converge with energy infrastructures (“smart grid”) and transportation infrastructures (“e-mobility”). These interactions and interdependencies among different infrastructures and the nature of multiple-actor and multi-level governance structures will result in more complex, uncertain and ambiguous constellations that may cause systemic risks.

The research project had the objectives to identify systemic risks in the energy sector and develop recommendations for the further development of governance structures to cope with systemic risks. To these ends, the interactions and the mutually influencing developments and transformations of technologies, political and regulative structures as well as institutional and organizational arrangements were analyzed from the perspective of risk research.



Dr. phil. Christian Büscher
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-23181