Close Menu

Thematic Fields

Sessions in: Towards Low Carbon Energy Systems

C.1 Understanding low-carbon transitions in the Global South: Policy, Politics, and Decolonization

Dwarkeshwar Dutt1, Anita Pinheiro2
1: Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India; 2: Ashoka University, India

The urgent need for a global low-carbon transition is undeniable. Sustainability transitions are strongly influenced by social, political, economic, and cultural milieu of national contexts. The Global South nations often have weak state capacity, undemocratic governance regimes, and contextually different backdrop for operation of environmental politics. Consequently, Global South transitions often unfold in a relatively more complex and multifaceted manner. Further, Global South countries like India and China would be major centres of consumption in the near future and thus should be one of the foci of transitions research. Yet, it is observed that much of the research in low-carbon transitions has focused on the Global North raising concerns about the of Western knowledge systems and practices. This session aims to explore the intricate dynamics of low-carbon transitions in the Global South focusing on policy, politics, and governance and aims to contribute to the program of decolonization of transition research.

The session would focus on the various aspects pertaining to Global South transitions, including but not limited to the following objectives:

1. Highlighting and understanding the unique context of the Global South: exploring the distinct challenges and opportunities associated with low-carbon transitions in the Global South such as aligning developmental needs with environmental goals.

2. Understanding policy and governance framework: critically examining the policy and governance structure in place for achieving low-carbon transitions; exploring the possibility of policy and governance innovations; and discussing effective policy and governance strategies to facilitate low-carbon transitions.

3. Analysing political realities of the Global South: critically analysing the low-carbon transition politics and power dynamics linked to innovators and incumbents; exploring the role of civil society, private sector, and state and their interrelationships with respect to transition dynamics; and examining the technology-politics nexus in the context of low-carbon transition

4. Decolonizing transition research: critically examining the existing conceptual frames in transitions research and discussing the need to decolonize transition research by incorporating alternate frames that better capture Global South reality.

This session is designed for researchers, policymakers, activists, and other practitioners interested in the Global South low-carbon transitions. We especially welcome paper presentations on energy and transportation.

By bringing together diverse stakeholders, we aim to foster meaningful discussions, share best practices, and inspire innovative solutions for a sustainable future. The session will promote a comprehensive understanding of critical facets of the Global South low-carbon transitions and also promote inclusivity in transitions research by engaging with alternative frames and perspectives to encourage decolonization of transitions research.

Submit Abstract

C.2 Limits to green growth and its induced conflicts of biomass use

Raphael Asada1, Annechien D. Hoeben1, Alex Giurca2, Tobias Stern1
1: University of Graz, Austria; 2: European Forest Institute

Green growth is understood as a transformation of production- and consumption systems that results in a reduction of environmental stress and a simultaneous increase in economic activity (Jackson and Victor, 2019; Victor and Sers, 2019). Hence, it relates to interactions within and between socio-technical and ecological systems (Ahlborg et al., 2019; van der Jagt et al., 2020). Generally, economic activity is dependent on material exchange with sources and sinks of the natural environment, which have absolute limits (Rockström et al., 2009; Steffen et al., 2015). Whether it is possible to transform our socio-technical systems in such a way that they allow economies to grow within these physical limits, remains a subject to be discussed.

In this context, the concept of the bioeconomy has received increasing attention from researchers, policy makers and practitioners (Schmidt et al., 2012; Ronzon et al., 2017; European Commission, 2018; OECD, 2018). Broadly speaking, proponents of this concept aim at establishing a sustainable economy that is primarily built on technological progress of biomass utilization (Bugge et al., 2016). Although the term bioeconomy lacks a uniform definition, it serves as a boundary concept that allows for bridging and coordinating heterogenous groups of actors (Fischer and Hajer, 1999; Cairns and Stirling, 2014; Stevenson, 2019).

A review by Holmgren et al. (2020) examined that research tends to replicate rather a techno-optimistic bioeconomy imaginary articulated by policy makers prioritizing economic growth and competitiveness. These imaginaries are markedly different from the initial bioeconomy concept introduced by Georgescu-Roegen (1971). While his initial vision emphasized the biological origin of all economic processes and thereby the limits to economic growth, the current visions highlight the growth potentials that are associated with the economization and commercialization of nature (Vivien et al., 2019; Vogelpohl and Töller, 2021). However, any additional use of biomass as well as any shift from one utilization path to another inherently induces competing goals (Boehlje and Bröring, 2011) and conflicting interests. A prominent example being the food-fuel debate (Rathmann et al., 2010) followed by conservation versus material use, or material use versus use for energy production.

Several studies have highlighted the diverging, and partly conflicting, visions that are associated with bioeconomy (e.g., Levidow et al., 2012; Meyer, 2017).

Following along the lines of these transformation pathways, the bioeconomy is often brought forward as part of the solution to mitigate and adapt to climate change. A recent review by Sharma & Malaviva (2023) confirmed positive interactions between the circular bioeconomy and all 17 SDG targets. However, possible trade-offs between pathways and limits of green growth are not discussed.

Even though ‘modern’ bioeconomy visions are generally associated with economic growth expectations, this session aims at paying attention to the inherent limits of bioeconomies to green growth and the induced socio-technical conflicts. Contributions should somehow contribute to the overall question: Can the limits to bio-based green growth and its associated conflicts lead to a radical transformation of socio-technical systems?

This session proposal invites for presentations leaving space for intense discussions.

Submit Abstract

C.3 Factors Accelerating or Hindering Organizational and Sociotechnical Transitions Towards Net-Zero

Matthew Phillip Johnson1, Gregory Patrick Trencher2, Sascha Nick3
1: Universität Hamburg, Germany; 2: Kyoto University Japan; 3: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, France

The imperative to mitigate global warming in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement demands a rapid and fundamental transformation of our energy and sociotechnical systems as well as organizational practices (Geels et al., 2017; Trencher et al., 2022). Our current energy production, business models and consumption patterns are heavily fossil-fuel dependent, and the window of opportunity to avert long-lasting carbon lock-in effects is rapidly closing (Levin et al. 2012; Seto et al. 2016). As aiming for net-zero emissions by mid-century increasingly becomes a norm for many organizations (Hale et al., 2022; Li et al., 2022; Trencher, Blondeel & Asuka, 2023), scholars are increasingly examining the triggers, mechanisms of change, risks, barriers and opportunities for organizations responding to the climate transition challenge (Wright and Nyberg 2017; Newell 2020; Engels et al., 2023).

In this context, we welcome a multi-disciplinary session (e.g., environmental science, political science, sociology, management, etc.) that delves into critical questions surrounding the pathways, opportunities, and obstacles associated with aiming for net-zero emissions by mid-century. We aim to stimulate a cross-disciplinary conversation across scholars working in fields such as sustainability transitions, business and economics, political science, public policy, and climate governance. We propose a range of research topics and questions that will enrich our understanding of this critical transition, such as:

  • How have organizations adapted and evolved within varying policy and market environments to facilitate their transition towards deep decarbonization? How can we conceptualise and investigate interactions between organizations, governments, and society?
  • To what extent do international agreements (e.g. Paris Agreement), networks (e.g. RE100, CDP) and investor frameworks (e.g. TCFD, GFANZ) impact the strategies, timelines and behaviour of organizations in their journey towards deep decarbonization?
  • What net-zero compatible actions are organizations implementing today? What factors trigger, accelerate or hamper these efforts? Do actions differ across geographical, sociotechnical or sectorial contexts? How can obstacles be overcome?
  • How can we measure and compare the breadth, depth and speed of transition behaviour and the effectiveness of different actions across multiple organizations? What performance metrics or indicators are useful for scholars and stakeholders?
  • How are organizations dealing with scale, i.e. aggregate impact (rebound effect, scope 3, etc.)?
  • What is the role of cultural, societal and international norms in shaping corporate strategies for deep decarbonization, and how do these norms interact with formal institutional frameworks?
  • How are organizational actions and plans embedded in society and culture? What is needed to create a positive feedback loop accelerating net zero?

We welcome both empirical and conceptual work addressing these questions, especially work involving interdisciplinary, comparative or multi-case approaches. Research can be focused on the organizational level, but also from a multi-level perspective (individual, organizational, institutional, etc. (Slawinski et al., 2017).
By exploring these questions, our session will contribute to a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the multifaceted nature of deep decarbonization and its various drivers and challenges. It will also contribute to a more complete picture of the world’s progress towards a low-carbon future and help identify common global trends and regional actions.

Submit Abstract

C.4 New social and technical challenges in transforming the energy system towards greater sustainability

Jürgen Suschek-Berger1, Michael Ornetzeder2
1: Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IFZ), Graz, Austria; 2: Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA), Vienna, Austria

The energy transition is entering a new phase of development. Whereas up to now the main focus has been on establishing renewables as technically and economically competitive alternatives, this new phase is characterised by an increasing scope and speed of change, with far-reaching technical, social and institutional consequences and challenges. In the coming decade, issues such as the complex interplay of multiple technologies, the demise of established business models and organisational structures are becoming crucial. Intensified economic and political wrangling among key players such as utilities and industry associations, and challenges to the functioning and performance of the energy sector as a whole will get extremely important. A decarbonised and sustainable energy system of the future might involve an unprecedented integration of sectors, completely new technologies and business models, and locally adjusted solutions.

For research, this means not only revising existing frameworks, but also applying new research strategies, new methods and new data sources. Comparative research approaches could also gain in importance in the future. Further challenges for research may arise, however, as a result of new societal developments.

In this session we will discuss questions regarding both our research practice as well as upcoming social challenges:

  • Which knowledge has been created in STS so far and how is this knowledge related to transformations in the energy system?
  • What knowledge is missing and what can we learn from previous projects?
  • Which new research strategies and methods seem promising given these new realities?
  • Which social challenges will arise as a result of the new dynamics in the energy sector?
  • How can new social groups be involved in the energy transition and how can we deal with the “Not in my Backyard (NIMBY)”-problem?
  • What is the significance of social values, practices and meanings?
  • How can we broaden the idea of energy communities and which business models point out new ways?

Submit Abstract

C.5 Upscaling Sustainable Energy Tech Transformations: A Comparative Analysis of Demonstrations in the Global North and the Global South

Sandra Hasanefendic1, Mariana Galvão Lyra2, Bart Bossink1, Rong Wang1
1: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands, The; 2: LUT University Finland

The energy transition is going slower than desired as over 60% of the world’s energy generation still relies on fossil fuels[1]. In response, World nations have agreed to limit global warming to below 2 ℃ and preferably to 1.5 ℃ compared to pre-industrial levels, which is adopted in the Paris Agreement, and the definitions of the new EU Green Deal. Achieving these crucial climate goals requires a focus on research, development (R&D), and, most importantly, demonstration (D) to scale up sustainable energy technology across industry, markets, and society. Demonstrations are defined as settings wherein the authorities cooperate with academia and commercial firms to further test, understand and improve new sustainable energy technologies before they grow large and are commercially exploited[2]. However, current sustainable energy tech demonstrations are often time-consuming, taking thirty years or more, and frequently fall short of their scaling-up targets due to technical issues or unprepared markets. The challenge is to accelerate these demonstrations successfully.

Past research has highlighted six key factors that influence upscaling demonstrations, including university-industry-government interaction, a coordinated flow of successive demonstrations, a supportive government policy, investments in complementary technology and infrastructure, presence of stimulating market forces, and usage of the economic benefits of scaling up. However, these factors have primarily been studied in developed countries of the Global Northwhereas further specification might be necessary given the intricate characteristics of the developing countries of the Global South, some of which are one of the largest World contributors to climate pollution. In such regions, facing governmental complexities, extreme austerities and community-based governance, the role of six factors may vary significantly.

The critical questions are how demonstrations unfold in such settings and which elements, relative to the six factors mentioned (or others), are pivotal in fostering their success? By understanding the similarities and differences between demonstrations in the Global North and the Global South and their respective factors for upscaling, we can gain a more comprehensive and generalizable understanding of the success of demonstration projects.

Our session will adopt the engaging “tech talk show” format. Panelists can choose between two presentation types:

a) Scientific articles which showcase tech proof of concepts (15 min presentations)

b) Scientific articles which showcase case studies on how tech demonstrations have addressed real world challenges in the Global North or Global South (15 min presentations)


[1] EA. (2023). Electricity production – Electricity Information: Overview.
[2] Bossink, B. A. G. (2017). Demonstrating sustainable energy: A review-based model of sustainable energy demonstration projects. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 77, 1349-1362.

Submit Abstract

C.6 Ownership, energy justice and the expansion of renewables

Marco Sonnberger1,2, Maria Pfeiffer1,3, Alena Bleicher4, Matthias Gross1,5
1: Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany; 2: University of Stuttgart, Germany; 3: University of Tuebingen; 4: Harz University of Applied Science; 5: UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research

Modern societies are systematically exploiting renewable energy sources on an ever faster and growing scale. By so doing, an increasing decentralization of energy production can be witnessed, which brings conflicts over land grabbing as well as local, democratic participation and co-production to the fore. This raises questions of distributive and procedural justice, which are deeply entangled with questions of ownership. Thus understood, energy transitions bring about different constellations of ownership with regard to renewable energy production that are inherently contested and publicly disputed. For example, some praise energy cooperatives for being a democratic form of participation in energy transitions, while others point to the sociostructural exclusivity of their members. In this context, this session will be particularly focusing on the analysis of emerging conflicts, framings, trade-offs, side effects as well as emerging decision-making structures around ownership regimes and property rights. Contributions to this paper session could address but are not limited to questions such as:

  • Do the material qualities of renewable energy sources call for novel property rights frameworks?
  • Are there any differences in “doing” ownership between renewable and fossil energy systems?
  • What kind of role do different forms of property (state property, private property or common property) play in the context of renewable energy production? Are they related to questions of distributive and procedural justice? And if so, how?
  • Do ownership regimes “qualitatively” change in the context of energy transitions? Are new ownership regimes emerging?
  • Are dominant ownership regimes contested in the context of wind energy expansion? Are novel conflicts emerging?
  • How do different social actors frame and relate to property rights of renewables? How do renewables become framed as ownable and alienable?

Submit Abstract

C.7 Energy Citizenship and Positive Energy Districts

Vanja Djinlev1, Malgorzata {Gosia} Matowska2, Michael Brenner-Fliesser3
1: ETH Zurich, Switzerland; 2: Th!nk E, Belgium; 3: Joanneum Research, Austria

In the face of escalating global climate change-related challenges, Energy Citizenship (EC) and Positive Energy Districts (PEDs) have risen to prominence as transformative concepts that support the energy transition. The EC concept centers on the idea that individuals and communities should play an active role in shaping the energy transition. In fact, EC can have different manifestations, from access to, consumption and production of energy along with manifestations related with the political sphere, and with decision-making in particular. Most importantly, these manifestations are not fixed, and energy citizens may display a single or several such EC expressions (Dunphy and Lennon, 2023). The PED concept on the other hand deals with landscapes that are not only energy efficient, but can be regarded as contributors to the evolution of the energy grid. Built upon notions such as zero energy buildings, energy neutral districts, energy positive neighborhoods, the PED concept centers around the notion of energy self-sufficiency – meeting the energy demand of a district from low-cost, local sources that are in congruence with the environment (Derkenbaeva et al., 2022).

This session seeks to delve deep into the nuanced relationship between the concepts of energy citizens and positive energy districts. Focusing on the intersection of these two concepts, this session will address critical questions including:

  1. Empowering citizens: How does the EC concept empower individuals and communities within the context of PEDs, beyond the well-known and vastly researched concept of energy communities? What other forms of citizen engagement around energy are in line with PEDs?
  2. Decision-making: What decision-making models are conducive to the successful implementation of PEDs? How can EC principles guide the initiation and/or growth of PEDs?
  3. Policy and regulatory frameworks: What policy/regulatory frameworks are essential for empowering energy citizens in PEDs? What frameworks are conducive to successful PEDs? What policies support the co-creation of PEDs with active citizen participation?
  4. Best practices: What are the most compelling examples of the EC/PED intersections? What lessons can be drawn to initiate and/or upscale existing PEDs?

By exploring the interplay between EC and PEDs, this session aims to provide deeper understanding of the potentialities and challenges for the energy transition. Through engaging dialogues, case studies’ deep dives, and interactive discussions, this session will shed light on paths for urban and rural developments towards more resilient, inclusive, and energy self-sufficient districts that are free of energy poverty.

Submit Abstract

C.8 Fostering Equity in Energy Transition Innovations

Paty Romero-Lankao
University of Toronto, Scarborough, Canada

Although issues of justice in energy transition technologies have received increasing attention, comprehensive approaches are needed on how inequities influence energy transition innovations (ETIs), from their design and experimentation to their widespread use and what can be done to redress these injustices. ETIs vary from large-scale infrastructure (e.g., ethanol facilities, utility-scale solar energy) to small-scale consumer-facing ones (e.g., EVs, rooftop solar, household appliances). Participants in this session are invited to discuss if and how justice is addressed in energy transition innovations (CJI) and to examine how three tenets of justice (recognition, procedural, and distributional justice) influence each level of ETI development, including niche or experimentation and widespread use. We welcome presentations on the equity dimensions of ETIs that address the following equity and justice questions

(a) Who controls, benefits, or is burdened by ETI research, prototyping, and deployment?

(b) Is the ETI designed with an understanding of historical and current determinants of inequities? Does it only consider market value or social, cultural, and environmental values?

(c) How do recognition and procedural justice at the niche or experimentation level or when launching city-wide ETIs shape multiple distributional issues? For instance, how effective subsidies directed at homeowners are as a policy tool for accelerating the diffusion of distributed solar photovoltaic?

(d) What does the ETI do, and how do actors and processes interact to diffuse it? Does the ETI address the root causes of energy hardship or exacerbate them? How are historically entrenched inequities targeted? Does the ETI recognize some users over others?

(e) What are community-based organizations, social movements, and change agents within firms and government institutions doing to address underserved populations’ aspirations, needs, or problems?

(f) What procedural means are legislators and regulators devising for empowering constituents and including otherwise marginalized groups in the early conceptualization and planning of ETIs?


Submit Abstract

C.9 Hydrogen – Fuel of the future?

Michael Kriechbaum1,2, Tuukka Mäkitie3,4
1: University of Technology Graz, Austria; 2: University of Graz, Austria;
3: SINTEF; 4: University of Oslo

While the vision of using hydrogen as an energy carrier is not new, the decarbonisation goals set in the Paris Agreement have caused expectations about hydrogen to rise to unprecedented levels. Since 2018, 41 countries have published national hydrogen strategies and more than 1000 hydrogen projects with a total volume of USD 320 billion are currently planned all over the world. However, despite this increasing momentum, several important questions remain open. For instance, opinions differ as to what extent blue hydrogen can or should play a key role in a low-carbon transition (i.e., hydrogen produced from fossil fuels but combined with carbon capture storage). Expectations also diverge in terms of hydrogen supply chain structures, ranging from visions of local and decentralised to highly globalised models. Finally, there are different views regarding focal applications areas; while some view hydrogen solely as a solution for difficult-to-decarbonise sectors, others associate its future use with wider range of applications, including passenger vehicles or residential heating. In summary, competing expectations persist regarding how, where, and for which specific purpose hydrogen should be produced.

While it is currently unclear which expectations and visions will materialize, each pathway will be associated with uncertainties, path dependencies and conflicts of interests. In this session, we thus invite contributions which ‘open up’ the socio-technical struggles that are related with competing hydrogen futures. Potential questions include (but are not limited to):

– Which discursive dynamics are associated with hydrogen and how do they vary across different discursive arenas (e.g., public media, academia, policy arena)?

– Which regional differences can be found in terms of how the future of hydrogen is envisioned and what explains these differences?

– How are existing uncertainties perceived by actors who are involved in innovation practices at the local level?

– How can decision and policy makers make sense and contribute to the realization of different hydrogen futures?

– How do competing expectations relate to questions of justice and fairness?

– What role do policy and regulation play in shaping the expectations regarding hydrogen technologies?

– How do incumbent socio-technical practices and infrastructures shape and influence hydrogen development?

Submit Abstract