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Helmholtz Alliance
"Future infrastructures for meeting energy demands. Towards sustainability and social compatibility"

Research in the energy sector concentrated so far on the development of new energy technologies and their optimal combination towards an efficient and effective energy mix. With the envisioned energy transformation in Germany, energy supply will be primarily based on renewable sources of energy and efficiency gains. Furthermore, the demand side of energy will become a major topic of research and will be at the core of future energy policies. The Helmholtz Alliance „Future infrastructures for meeting energy demands. Towards sustainability and social compatibility“ places the connections between and among energy technologies, planning procedures and consumer behavior in the focus of the research interests and investigations.

Research projects include the interaction of energy supply, energy distribution and energy storage on the one hand and institutional governance and consumer behavior on the other hand. The results are expected to provide policy-oriented knowledge for an efficient and socially acceptable design of a sustainable energy system. 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.

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. The Alliance in bullet points:
  • Total funding: 16,5 Mio. Euro
  • Duration: September 2011 to August 2016
  • Spokespersons: Prof. Armin Grunwald, Prof. Ortwin Renn
  • Lead centre: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
  • Participating Helmholtz Centres: Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ), German Aerospace Center (DLR), Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
  • Universities: University of Stuttgart, Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, Free University Berlin
  • Participating non-university research institution: Centre for European Research (ZEW), Mannheim

Developing Societal Scenarios

The intended transformation of the German energy infrastructure presupposes a harmonized co-evolution of technological and societal change. Energy supply technologies, consumer behaviour, policy measures and societal developments such as demographic change, lifestyle changes and changes in social values are interrelated and cannot be separated from each other.

To understand this complex interplay (a major concern of the Helmholtz Alliance) integrated scenarios of technological and societal change will be developed in a project coordinated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). ZIRIUS contributes to this project with the development of society scenarios exploring the societal uncertainty context of the technological transformation process.

The qualitative society scenarios will be constructed using Cross-Impact Balance Analysis (CIB) and offer a basis to discuss the robustness of concepts, transformation pathways, interventions and technology assessments as well as risks and uncertainties.

Project duration: 2011 - 2016

Project staff ZIRIUS :

Dr. Wolfgang Weimer-Jehle
Hannah Kosow
Diana Gallego

⇒ Homepage Helmholtz Alliance

Image source: Helmholtz Alliance

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