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).
Analyzing conflicts in planning processes
Major transformations of the demand-side of national energy systems will inevitably go along with behavioral changes and potential conflicts of interest. Hence, such transformations are likely to spark off societal controversies and debates, e.g. about which behavioral changes are bearable and acceptable, about how (e.g. financial) burdens should be allocated across the society, or how conflicts between different values (financial, ecological, political, ...) are to be resolved.
This project analyzed and anticipated these societal changes and their reflections in form of social discourses. One approach was to reconstruct the controversies as argument maps. Argument mapping is an innovative method for discourse analysis which has been developed in recent decades in an interdisciplinary effort. It has proved highly helpful for structuring and evaluating otherwise opaque and complex debates. The project offered new insights into the structure of societal conflicts and debates. In doing so, its results supported the understanding of public responses to new energy planning, including the aspect of acceptance and acceptability of transformations in the energy sector.