Increasingly, discussions of the energy transition are revolving around questions of fairness, justice, and social responsibility, with a particular focus on financing, public acceptance of wind turbines and transmission lines, the coal phase-out, and working conditions in the wind and solar industry. However, our understanding of the attitudes, concepts of justice, and the experiences of different sections of the population in relation to the energy transition and the associated challenges continues to be hampered by a lack of robust knowledge. We aim to close this knowledge gap by systematically and comprehensively investigating the social sustainability of the energy transition.
Gauging public attitudes with the Social Sustainability Barometer for the Energy Transition
At the start of this project, we developed a concept for a socially sustainable energy transition. This concept has informed the development of an empirically sound database for the annual monitoring of the energy transition with regard to the attitudes and experiences of different sections of the population. Our research is guided by the following questions: How is the energy transition reflected in the behaviour and prospects of different sections of the population? What attitudes, concerns, and concepts of justice tend to dominate? How keen are people to participate in the energy transition? What are the existing obstacles and opportunities? The results of a survey on these questions are published annually in the form of a "Social Sustainability Barometer for the Energy Transition", which are presented and discussed with relevant stakeholders at a conference every year.
We use this barometer to pinpoint the key areas for a socially sustainable energy transition, highlight progress and setbacks, and analyse the need and potential for action at the political and societal levels. The barometer's main empirical basis is an annual panel survey of 6 500 households, which is carried out in cooperation with RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research and forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis. This analysis is supplemented by a qualitative survey carried out with the assistance of focus groups.
Combining scientific reflection with hands-on pilot schemes: the dynamis partnership
The IASS is developing the Social Sustainability Barometer in the context of the dynamis partnership for a socially sustainable energy transition, which it established together with the 100 prozent erneuerbar stiftung (100 Percent Renewable Foundation) and the innogy Foundation for Energy and Society in December 2016. Each of the partners brings their particular expertise to the task of exploring various aspects of public participation in the energy transition through a combination of scientific reflection and pilot projects. In two real-world laboratories we are developing, for example, a joint regional energy system as well as local renewable energy projects in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.