Greater efficiency and a substantial proportion of energy from renewable sources are the main properties of Germany’s new path towards sustainable energy. This transition requires a fundamental change of both the infrastructure and the development and installation of innovative technologies. At the same time, creative and socially compatible approaches to planning, steering, adaptation, communication and participation are prerequisites for the transition to succeed. Starting from late 2011, researchers from a variety of academic disciplines within the Helmholtz Alliance will apply a holistic and integrative approach to study the complex relationships between energy supply, demand and contextual conditions. The research team conceives of energy supply as a socio-technological system in which technologies, institutional settings and consumer behavior interact. Studying these interactions will provide valuable insights for designing improved technical infrastructures and promoting organizational changes that would lead to the envisioned results.In the future, success or failure of energy innovations will largely depend on the behavior of private and industrial users. In addition to technical developments, research needs to take into account whether and in which ways energy customers as well as stakeholders active in the energy arenas are willing to commit themselves to the transformation of the energy system. Emerging risks from innovative technologies and novel innovation networks are also important topics of the investigations as well as the opportunities for efficient, fair and reliable “governance“ of an energy system that is clearly becoming more complex. Placing a stronger focus on the demand and user side marks a turning point towards an interdisciplinary energy research conducted by psychologists, economists, social scientists, system theorists and other social scientists. The Helmholtz Alliance is the common platform for researchers of these multiple disciplines to coordinate their projects and to cooperate with technology experts. The ultimate goal is to investigate the terms and conditions of the planned transformation of the energy system and to facilitate policies that help reach this goal. ZEW is involved within this research programme in several projects on energy use, innovations in the energy sector and respective regulation needs.

See for further information the website of the project:

Selected Publications