Conditions for socio-economic development and citizen engagement in energy islands (SERENE deliverable 3.2)

Ewert J. Aukes*, Frans H.J.M. Coenen, Victoria I. Daskalova, Cihan Gerçek, Florian Lukas Helfrich, Dasom Lee, Goos Lier, Lisa Sanderink, Juliane Marie Schillinger, Athanasios Votsis, Joey Willemse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportReportAcademic

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Abstract

Decentralized local energy is seen as key in achieving energy transition goals (Young & Brans, 2017). However, the success of socio-technical energy system transitions at the local level is influenced by general trends and contextual issues alike (cf. Koirala et al. 2016). While the general trends are inevitable or at least difficult to modulate in the short term, contextual issues can be addressed. Learning about such malleable contextual conditions can best be done by looking at specific empirical contexts.This SERENE deliverable 3.2 considers the socio-technical dynamics of energy transitions, including their potential influence on the ‘hardware’ of energy technologies, which may play a role for the implementation of local citizen-centred energy systems. Specifically, it addresses the questions:- Which obstacles and conditions are present in three local energy transition contexts regarding the local energy transition?- Which conditions for stakeholder engagement are present or need to be developed in those same local energy transition contexts?The SERENE project accompanies local energy system transitions in Skanderborg (Denmark), Olst (the Netherlands), and Przywidz (Poland). These three sites of local energy systems transitions are embedded in socio-technical systems, comprising both technical components (e.g., energy generation equipment) and social components (e.g., actors and institutions). Moreover, the transition of these local energy systems is seen as socio-technical systems change, referring to the technical and social innovations that are introduced to disrupt and change the incumbent systems in the demonstrators. As energy transitions at the local level are confronted with various societal issues, we map these based on key actor interviews with local representatives of the transition sites (in the remainder, these are called ‘demonstrator sites’) and cross-referencing these with literature reviews from various social-scientific perspectives (e.g. socioeconomics, laws and regulatory frameworks, governance, urban planning, social acceptance, and societal debates). All thus generated obstacles and conditions are categorised using an existing framework which was adapted for SERENE’s purposes. The issue domains in this framework include (1) technological issues such as energy efficiency, (2) socioeconomic issues such as a lack of the ‘right’ economic incentives, (3) environmental issues such as pollution, and (4) institutional issues such as trust, motivation, and continuity. Apart from enumerating and describing the current obstacles and conditions present in each of the transition sites (section 3), we also include a brief reflection on obstacles and conditions that were found to be relevant in the literature, but not (yet) present locally in order to predict the obstacles and conditions that the demonstration sites may encounter as the project progresses.The second objective of this deliverable is a discussion of the conditions for citizen engagement. While many of the obstacles also affect citizen engagement, we therefore also discuss the role of innovation agents, such as SERENE project partners, in the governance of innovation processes (section 5). If the co-evolution of society and (energy) technology is to be taken seriously, a different mindset is required of scientists that involves an inclusive and open-minded perspective. Besides briefly describing the scientific perspective on this, we also provide a very generic guideline to achieve greater levels of responsible involvement from citizens in innovation processes (section 5).Assessing the obstacles and conditions in SERENE, shows that the contexts of the three transition sites are quite different from each other. Only a few obstacles and conditions are shared, and will, then, also play out differently. Depending on which stage of the innovation process that each transition site is in, the obstacles and conditions also differ per issue domain. For example, as in Przywidz, the energy monitoring technologies are currently being installed, so there are no social issues related to these technologies, yet. Currently, more issues are reported relating to institutions in that transition site. Regardless of the between-case differences, the findings present an opportunity for learning and the exchange of experiences between the sites. We conclude that while a deeper understanding of the local circumstances will further improve the support of the innovation process on the local level, the findings presented here already provide a good baseline from which to further engage in the co-evolutionary accompaniment of each innovation ‘journey’.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAalborg
PublisherUniversity of Aalborg
Commissioning bodyEuropean Commission
Number of pages87
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2022

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