The energy transition turns out to be harder than expected after Fukushima. Initial optimism has given way to protest against new infrastructure such as high-voltage lines, more and more complaints about inequitably distributed burdens, and criticism about unclear competencies in the political arena. "Our initial assumption that the energy transition is more than replacing old technology with new has been clearly confirmed. It is a social transformation that affects many areas of life," says Armin Grunwald, Head of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and one of the two spokespersons of the research association.
Over a period of five years, the Alliance investigated the various interfaces between technical, economic and social factors that determine the conversion process towards new infrastructure. Four Helmholtz centers, four universities and the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) were involved in the research.
Participation: energy transition as a social process
The scientists were able to prove, among other things, that residents rather support decisions on infrastructure projects when they are preceded by intense participatory processes. In general, projects such as new power lines or wind and solar parks can actually benefit from the special expertise of the local population. What is important is to constructively integrate participatory processes into planning procedures.
"While up to now citizens were mainly energy consumers, many are now doubly affected by the ecological transformation of the energy sector," said project coordinator Jens Schippl from ITAS. As active consumers they themselves are expected to contribute to the success of the energy transition. In a field test, the researchers equipped households with smart meters in combination with a smart meter web portal developed by the University of Stuttgart. It became clear that a system that extensively supports consumers in using electricity efficiently in everyday life can lead to substantial energy savings in households.
The scientists of the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS presented their work results on March 14 and 15, 2016 at the final conference "Future infrastructures for meeting energy demands. Towards sustainability and social compatibility." The topics "Active citizens and consumers as an opportunity for the energy transition" and "Governance of the energy transition – what next?" were the focus of two panel discussions with representatives from politics, business and society. (16.03.2016)