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Workshop: "From Innovation to Acceptance: Challenges and Potentials of a Sustainable Energy Transition"

Workshop Agenda

4:00 – 4:15          Welcome Note & Interactive Intervention

4:15- 4:40            Key Note Maj-Britt Quitzau, Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark: Energies for change – aligning stakeholders towards sustainable energy transitions and Q&A

4:40 –  5:10         Presentations of Sven Wüstenhagen and Sabine Bossert and Q&A

5:10 – 5:40          Presentations of  Jens Clausen and Rosaria Di Nucci and Michael Krug and Q&A

5:40 – 5:45          Interactive Intervention

5:45 – 6:05          Key Note Alessandro Luè, Politecnico di Milano, Italy: Challenges and opportunities of raising social acceptance to accelerate the energy transition process and Q&A

6:05 – 6:15        Wrap up Interactive Session 2

Workshop Summary

In spite of the progress made in the last decades and the increasing role of decarbonisation technologies we still need a shift of the current energy system, which still relies on fossil fuels, towards a system based on sustainable energy sources and rational use of resources. The transition to a sustainable energy system is closely linked to the diffusion of innovations.

The workshop dealt with three important issues:

  • user interaction with new technologies (e.g. smart grids, demand side management),
  • stakeholder involvement strategies
  • social innovations like citizens’ energy projects which provide greater local control over and acceptance of renewable energy generation infrastructure.

The workshop and the related discussions underlined the multiple dimensions of the transition process (socio-political, economic and environmental). The workshop brought together research findings from social science research on various energy systems. We heard about good practices, barriers and drivers, and at the end of the workshop we were also able to discuss which policy strategies and policy mixes are (to be) used in successful transformation cases. The presentations (also including those registered before the workshop) have shown the growing role of social acceptance as a potentially constraining factor. This points out that the social dimension has become as important as technological aspects for a successful sustainable energy transition. The diffusion and acceptance process of sustainable energy supply and consumption – ranging from wind energy and solar power to newer fields like smart grids, all-electric solutions, or power-to-heat – have very different histories. Although these fields face different challenges, the workshop has helped to detect similarities and common issues and some lessons for policy could be drawn. Moreover, we also gained an understanding of the strategic work that urban and energy planners perform in their attempt to construct viable alliances and alignments to push energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions.

Following take away points can be listed:

  • The energy transition is generally supported by the vast majority of the population, but its implementation faces criticism mostly at local level
  • Large energy and infrastructure projects lack broad support and provoke considerable local opposition
  • Negative attitudes towards some generation technologies, but also for grid are increasing, even in regions with higher acceptance (and penetration) of renewables.
  • Acceptance depends heavily on access to information, early involvement of affected populations and stakeholders, inclusiveness of the process and adequate financial resources of the community where project are implemented
  • There is a higher acceptability when the decision-making process is perceived as being fair and open (procedural justice)
  • The reaction to these projects often depend on the context, project-specific factors and personal attitudes
  • It is key to show lighthouse projects and representative activities involving citizens, highlighting local benefits and positively influencing public opinion. 

The Corona pandemic has had not only consequences on our lives, it is showing significant effects on climate change and climate protection, nationally and internationally. On the one hand, national measures and restrictions to fight the spread of the pandemic and the economic recession are leading to diminishing CO2 emissions in many countries and sectors, for example through the reduction of air traffic and industry production. On the other hand, the political focus in many countries is shifting from long-term climate action towards short-term actions to address the negative effects of the pandemic. Unfortunately, most economic stimulus packages neglect the adverse effect on CO2. But also in pandemic times, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should remain imperative; experience has shown that crises trigger innovation. As a keynote speaker pointed out, to keep investing innovation and in climate protection can be decisive for building the foundation for post-crisis development paths.

Keynotes by:

Alessandro Luè, Politecnico di Milano, Italy: "Challenges and opportunities of raising social acceptance to accelerate the energy transition process"

Rosaria Di Nucci, Michael Krug, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany: "Community energy and local participation in energy projects – A means to achieve acceptability?"

Jens Clausen, Borderstep Institut für Nachhaltigkeit gGmbH, Germany: "Governance of rapid socio-technical transitions in the energy sector – a case study based contribution to transformation research"

Sabine Bossert, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany: Co-Creation – Opportunities, Methods and Challenges within the process of energy transition at Forschungszentrum Jülich

Sven Wüstenhagen, Fraunhofer IMWS; Germany: „Findings from a Project „re-produktive Stadt” – Innovation and Acceptance in Field of Sustainable Energy Transition in Polycentric Cities “

Maj-Britt Quitzau, Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark: Energies for change – aligning stakeholders towards sustainable energy transitions