Accepted Paper:

Towards a framework for energy system transformation research  


Michael Ornetzeder (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The paper proposes a framework to systematically explore socio-technical implications of energy transitions, and applies the framework on a case study of plus-energy buildings.

Paper long abstract:

Energy systems are in a state of flux. It is expected that in the next 40 years or so the world will move from fossil fuels to renewables and higher levels of efficiency. This transition certainly will involve new technologies and infrastructures as well as new institutions and practices. So far, most changes in the energy sector are driven by technological research and development activities proposing a wide range of competing and often inconsistent options and pathways. The strong emphasis on decarbonisation, however, runs the risk of 'technocratic reduction' eventually leading to new technological fixes. In order to avoid early lock-ins and systemic inconsistencies a much broader understanding of energy transitions is needed. This paper discusses first ideas for a framework for systematic exploration of some of the various socio-technical implications of energy transitions. The framework links together and builds on transition research, technology assessment and complex systems approaches. The aim is to extend these existing approaches to take account of the importance of risk migration and thereby broaden energy policy options. Research based on this framework should allow for a better understanding of local and regional as well as systemic effects of on-going developments and consequently enhance the societal value of innovation in the energy system. In the paper the framework will be exemplified using the case of plus-energy buildings.

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