Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

ENERGY-TRANS: Sustainability monitoring

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).

Sustainability monitoring

Scientists in the cross-cutting topic “Sustainability monitoring” developed an instrument for sustainability analyses and assessments of the German energy system.  On the one hand, this includes a system of sustainability indicators and the respective target values for the years 2020, 2030 and 2050 to assess the current states or development paths in the framework of the transformation of the energy system which was developed on the basis of literature analyses and knowledge of experts and stakeholders. The system differs from others (such as the monitoring report of the federal government) by including indicators which address important aspects of the socio-technical energy system, e.g. societal acceptance or active support for the system transformation. On the other hand, a methodology for the assessment of available indicator values was developed as well. This was the basis for initial statements on already existing or possible future sustainability-related conflicts of targets and interests.

Furthermore, they developed and tested a methodology which uses the indicators for sustainability assessment of socio-technical scenarios prepared in the project.


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

Tel.: +49 721 608-22704