Energy transition – assessing innovation

Development of a framework for comparative research on the implications and risks of innovations for a decarbonised energy system


Our energy system is changing. The shift away from coal and oil and the expansion of solar, wind and water power have far-reaching economic and social consequences. How can we understand the associated "wave" of technological innovation in a comparative way and assess both local and systemically relevant consequences and potential risks as early as possible?

This project aims to develop a new research framework for the comparative and systematic assessment of innovation impacts. The aim is to comprehensively analyse intended and unintended effects of energy innovations in order to increase the social benefit of innovations for the decarbonisation of the energy system.

Preparing for a new era

The next twenty years will be less about improving single technologies and more about designing and building new infrastructures, institutions and lifestyles. In science, this is referred to as transition, as the focus is on the shift from one state to another. The transformation of energy systems is an important example of this. If we really want to switch Europe's energy supply largely to renewable sources by 2050, we need far-reaching changes in energy supply and consumption.

The requirements for technical development are thus increasing significantly: technology must not only function smoothly and have as few negative consequences and risks as possible, it also has to make a relevant contribution to the far-reaching transformation of the energy system in the future. The research approach developed in this project aims to investigate whether and to what extent this is actually possible.

The project consists of three parts: First, a theoretical framework is developed on the basis of existing knowledge. This will focus on the idea that many of the consequences of technology only arise in connection with concrete forms of use. Technical innovations will therefore be described as a combination of technology and forms of use.

Secondly, the project will develop new research methods and rules for their application. And thirdly, the new research framework will be tested using a real-world example. Specifically, the project will focus on innovations that enable the decentralised generation, storage and use of renewable energies.