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International workshop on transition research within the context of the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS [27.07.2012]

"Transition Research for the German Energy Transition" was the theme of the international and interdisciplinary workshop from July 5 to 6, 2012, hosted by ITAS within the context of the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS. The theme chosen for the workshop reflects the major task of the Alliance to research the transformation of the energy system in the course of the implementation of new energy policy in Germany. The research projects of the Alliance are analyzing the energy system and its transformation holistically and integratively as an explicitly socio-technical system. This departure from a merely technological orientation is the novelty of this Helmholtz Alliance. The focus is on the societal issues and on the required governance measures during the transformation of the energy system.

The target of the workshop was to discuss concepts and to gather “transition research” experiences regarding the transformation of complex socio-technical systems. As "transition research" has become increasingly important in Europe, the purpose of the workshop was to learn from it, and to deduce strategies for the research work of the Alliance. Topics of the workshop were not only the challenges for the research work but also action-oriented options for transition management and governance.

At the beginning of the workshop Armin Grunwald and Jens Schippl (both ITAS) emphasized the challenge that the German energy turnaround represents for technology assessment and for the research of the Helmholtz Alliance on the transformation of the socio-technical energy systems.

In the session "Transition Research: Theories, Concepts, Experiences, lessons to be learned" Geert Verbong (Eindhoven University of Technology) presented his experiences with the Dutch transition research. Miranda Schreurs (FU Berlin) pointed out that the whole world is looking at Germany on how the transformation of such a complex system like energy supply would succeed. Jan-Peter Voß (TU Berlin) demanded a greater consideration of the political dimensions of governance regarding transition research and management. Gerhard Fuchs (University of Stuttgart) referred to the importance of researching the role of incumbent and of new actors within the transformation of the energy system. Bernhard Truffer (EAWAG/CIRUS, Dübendorf) argued for a more area sensitive research with respect to the genesis and the transition of paths of energy policy.

In the session "Transition Research and Management in a wider societal context" the discussions were enriched by the research results of Thomas Flüeler (ETH Zürich) on the handling of normal inevitable conflicts occurring during technological transformations as well as by the contribution of Andrew Jamison (Aalborg University) on cultural aspects and their relevance for education of engineers in the light of transition management.

In the session "The future of social science in transition research" Harald Rohracher (Alpen-Adria-Universität, Klagenfurt) pointed out the necessity of more research in the field of generic dimensions of societal change. Finally, René Kemp (Maastricht University) contributed by offering an evaluation of different factors regarding sustainable transformation. As an example he had chosen "e-mobility". He highlighted the functions of expert debates in transitional processes.

The focus of the final discussion was the specific situation of the energy turnaround in Germany, the role of policy in processes of transformation, and the interrelationship of regional and global factors during systems transformation.

The workshop successfully presented useful approaches for researchers who investigate the transformation of the energy system and who want to provide knowledge for action.

Related link:
Helmholtz-Allianz ENERGY-TRANS (German)