The innogy Foundation, the 100 prozent erneuerbar Foundation and the IASS announced the launch of their new research cooperation dynamis on 1 December. This venture will seek to fill an important gap in the energy policy landscape by exploring the issue of social sustainability. “The energy transition holds enormous potential for society, but we can only tap into this if we understand the risks, the opportunities, and the challenges presented to all the various groups in our society,” explains Ortwin Renn, scientific director at the IASS.
Developing a social sustainability barometer
dynamis will focus on the subject of social participation. Who shares in the economic benefits of the energy transition? Who does not? Who is involved in political decision-making processes around this transformation? To what extent does the energy transition enable citizens to live the life of their choosing? dynamis will consider these questions and more in the research project “Social Sustainability Barometer for the Energy Transition.” “Social sustainability is the bottleneck of the energy transition. Within this context, social equity is becoming the focus of increasingly heated political debate. What is lacking is robust knowledge, and we wish to address this by means of a sustainability barometer that will enable researchers to analyse and describe the social components of the energy transition for the first time. This will provide the basis for the informed assessment of the energy transition’s social sustainability,” says Renn.
The sustainability barometer, which will be developed in close cooperation with the RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, is to provide empirical evidence on the social sustainability of the energy transition each year and will serve as a point of reference for decision-makers in business, politics, civil society, and science. “This will enable us to pinpoint key areas for a socially sustainable energy transition, to highlight progress, and to better compare different development pathways for the transformation of the energy system,” explains Renn.
The method: think-do-rethink
dynamis will explore solutions to promote a decentralised energy transition. These will be developed not on the drawing board but in the field where decentralised energy transitions are either making strong progress or have stalled. “Whether we are talking about the development of regional energy systems with broad public support, projects at the district-level to deploy renewable energy in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, or the impact of digitalisation on social participation – solutions to these complex issues have to be trialled on the ground in society. That is why we have made living laboratories our method of choice. We want to identify which models of participation in decentralised energy transition work in practice and which do not,” explains René Mono, director of the 100 Percent Renewable Foundation. “We will then feed the findings of our work in these living laboratories back into the scientific and political debate. This dovetailing of scientific research, on-the-ground trials, and subsequent analysis and reflection is a defining feature of dynamis. And it is because of this that we describe dynamis as a think-do-rethink tank.”
The energy transition as a collective undertaking
Bringing together three very different partners, dynamis reflects a new approach to research in this field. “We have to move outside our comfort zones and begin to shape the energy transition as a collective undertaking,” outlines Stephan Muschick, managing director of the innogy Foundation. “This no doubt rather unusual cooperative venture marks a first step.” The three partners will bring extensive expertise and very different projects on the subject of energy into the network, which will provide a space to collaborate on the development of new ideas. “We intend to make participation our focus,” says Muschick. “New technologies and decentralised energy generation solutions are closing the gap between producers and consumers. But numerous barriers continue to hinder a dynamic and fair energy transition. We want to recognise these obstacles and contribute to their dismantling.” As part of its mission, the network welcomes new partners.
dynamis is a research cooperation network comprising the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), the innogy Foundation for Energy and Society (formerly the RWE Foundation) and the 100 prozent erneuerbar stiftung (100 Percent Renewable Foundation). Sie wurde am 1. Dezember 2016 ins Leben gerufen und ist zunächst auf eine Laufzeit von drei Jahren angelegt. dynamis versteht sich als Think-Do-Rethink Tank.