Accepted Paper:

Redesigning the Pathway - Power and politics of the German Energy Transition  


Mario Neukirch (University of Stuttgart)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyzes the socio-technical restructuration of the German energy transition. During the 1970/80s the pioneers did not only aim for new technologies, but also a democratization of the energy system. Now, the old paradigm is being reestablished and the pioneers’ ideas are losing influence.

Paper long abstract:

"Energy Transition" was a political slogan against the established actor coalition (government, nuclear industry and large research institutions). It criticized the energy companies that would only look for profits and would not care for nature, environment and health protection. Within the traditional energy system - that technically consists of big fossil and nuclear power plants and a power grid infrastructure - during the 1990s a niche for small and decentralized wind, solar and biomass installations has grown up constantly. Ecologically motivated actors framed their involvement in renewable energy investments as a statement against the incumbent energy system. Over a long period of time the large energy companies fought against the renewable sector, fearing negative effects by its competition. Only during the second half of the past decade, the situation gradually changed. Especially the offshore-wind sector became interesting for big players. Also large investment fonds and the insurance sector discovered renewable energies as a new business model. This required the modification of the regulative framework. On the other side, the market conditions for small independent actors like private households, farmers and cooperatives worsened. As a consequence, the pioneers' influences declined and as subjects of the transition they became devaluated in several aspects: technically, economically and ideologically.

The paper emphasizes the latest steps in this process. Moreover, it discusses in how far the planned extension of the transmission power grid infrastructure is a core element of the transition's transition.

Panel T050
Conceptualizing transformational change in energy systems and the built environment