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Sessions in: Towards Low Carbon Energy Systems

C.1 Kincentric Ecology and the Energy Transition; Achieving Net Zero Carbon will Require Mainstreaming Nature Connectednes

Organizers: David Richard Walwyn
University of Pretoria, South Africa

The transition to an environmentally-sustainable techno-scientific future, as referenced in the preamble to this conference, is an imperative. However, such a future may not be achieved without a fundamental change to our relationship with the environment (Salmón, 2000), leading to a new trajectory in human behaviour (Dubois, Sovacool, Aall, Nilsson, Barbier, Herrmann, Bruyère, Andersson, Skold and Nadaud, 2019). Kincentric or kinship ecology is a term that refers to the interconnectedness of humans and the environment. It emphasises the idea of ‘environment as family’ and dispels the traditional binary construction of humans vs. nature or human existence as the sole source of meaning. It considers the environment as a source of meaning and purpose, not simply as a resource from which to extract minerals or produce food. The discourse on transition is starting to recognise the importance of ‘deep transition’, which considers that pathways to sustainability cannot be developed without changing the human/nature relationship (Schot, 2021; Schot and Kanger, 2018). Studies on the social construction of technology should no longer be limited to the science, technology and society (STS), but need to take a broader perspective of science, technology, environment and society, in which the environment is conceptualised as a part of society. Reframing STS in this way could lead to more effective processes for the net zero goals. For this session, we are requesting presentations and papers from delegates who are working in the area of kinship ecology, or human/nature relationships, and particularly the role that a reshaping of this relationship can play in achieving the energy transition through the reframing of scientific endeavour. Relevant topics could include the framing of socio-technical imaginaries based on the concept of interconnectedness, indicators of kinship ecology, pedagogies for raising awareness of nature connectedness, approaches of indigenous people towards the environment and how these practices can be incorporated in a new ontology, and the influence of environmental awareness on human behaviour. References Dubois, G., Sovacool, B., Aall, C., Nilsson, M., Barbier, C., Herrmann, A., Bruyère, S., Andersson, C., Skold, B. & Nadaud, F. 2019. It starts at home? Climate policies targeting household consumption and behavioral decisions are key to low-carbon futures. Energy Research & Social Science, 52(6), pp 144-158. Salmón, E. 2000. Kincentric ecology: Indigenous perceptions of the human–nature relationship. Ecological applications, 10(5), pp 1327-1332. Schot, J. 2021. Deep Transitions Transforming Our World [Online]. Utrecht: NEST. Available: Schot, J. & Kanger, L. 2018. Deep transitions: Emergence, acceleration, stabilization and directionality. Research Policy, 47(6), pp 1045-1059.

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C.2 Path dependence and path break out in energy, mobility and food systems

Organizers: Gregor Kungl1, Apajalahti Eeva-Lotta2
1: University of Stuttgart, Germany; 2: LUT University, Finland

This session aims to deepen the understanding of the relevance of path dependence and path break-out for sustainability transitions in energy, mobility and food systems. Path dependence is a core concept in sustainability transitions research (Köhler et al. 2019; Araújo, 2014) and has been commonly used to explain the stability of established socio-technical systems (Walker, 2000; Berkhout, 2002; Geels, 2004) and organisations and institutions (Apajalahti, 2018; Kungl, 2018, Sydow et al. 2021). However, despite or perhaps because of its popularity, the term is used very differently and often in unspecific ways. A broad understanding of path dependence uses the term – often in reference to Unruh’s work on carbon lock-in (2000) – to describe the various historical barriers to sustainability transitions stemming from technological, institutional, and behavioural lock-ins (Seto et al., 2016; Trencher et al., 2020). A narrow and better-defined understanding of path dependence takes the seminal work of Arthur (1989) and David (1986) as a starting point and analyses the underlying self-reinforcing mechanisms that produce and reproduce path dependence – such as network externalities, adaptive expectations or learning effects (Klitkou et al., 2015; Apajalahti and Kungl, 2022).

Although the term path dependence is omnipresent in sustainability transition research, empirical studies that examine path dependence and its core mechanisms in the context of sustainability transitions are comparatively rare. This applies even more to the phenomenon of path break-out, which is both empirically under-researched and theoretically under-developed (Apajalahti and Kungl, 2022). Therefore, we invite any paper studying path dependence and path break-out in the energy, mobility and food sector. We are equally interested in work that examines path dependence and path break-out at the level of socio-technical systems or economic sectors and work on organisational path dependence. Furthermore, as there exist several interlinks between different sectors – for example because they use the same fuels – we are interested in papers that explore the cross-sectoral dynamics of path dependence and path break-out.

Themes and topics of interest may include but are not limited to:

  • Empirical research analysing path dependence and/or path break-out in sustainability transitions
  • Theoretical and conceptual elaborations on path dependence, self-reinforcing processes and path break-out
  • Elaborations on the concepts of intentional path breaking and unintended path dissolution
  • Studies on the interactions of different self-reinforcing mechanisms
  • Critical contributions on theoretical challenges of path dependence theory and its philosophy of science background (ontology, epistemology, methodology)
  • Combinations of different theoretical perspectives e.g. organisational reorientations, process research, complex systems theories and sustainability transitions that can be used to explain patterns of path dependence and path break-out
  • Studies on sectoral interlinkages between energy, mobility and food sectors – how changes in one sector cause changes in another sector

Papers studying such issues and related topics are cordially invited.

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C.3 Carbon capture: Analysing and opening up socio-technical struggles

Organizers: Kasper Ampe1, Michael Kriechbaum2,3
1: Ghent University, Belgium; 2: Graz University of Technology, Austria; 3: University of Graz, Austria

While carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) options are increasingly seen as an integral part of future climate policy, they comprise a range of different approaches. They may target biogenic and waste emissions, direct removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and point source/industrial capture. Amongst other approaches, reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, geological sequestration, seawater fertilization and capture, enhanced weathering and biochar capture are also being considered. Furthermore, and in line with efforts to establish a circular economy, some of the captured carbon may be reused in the form of renewable fuels, materials and chemical building blocks, whilst also considering broader options such as electrification, green hydrogen, demand-side interventions and enhanced recycling. Undoubtedly, a diversity of policy and societal choices are inherent to CCUS options (e.g. Carton et al., 2020; Sovacool, 2021).

Along these lines, it is clear that the development and implementation of CCUS options will follow contingent, complex and conflict-ridden trajectories. In these potential trajectories, divergent groups of actors develop particular problem definitions and propose specific strategies, technologies and solutions. As a result, they are shaping specific discourses and imaginaries (Hajer, 1995; Jasanoff & Kim, 2015). These differ in terms of what circular and sustainable means to whom, whose circular and sustainable counts, what is to be changed by whom and how this may lead to transformative change (Kovacic et al., 2019; Scoones et al., 2015). Hence, CCUS trajectories will be characterized by a host of frictions, differences, controversies and socio-technical struggles.

Therefore, this panel proposal invites contributions that delve into socio-technical struggles related to CCUS, particularly focussing on one of the following three main issues:

  1. Identifying discourses and imaginaries: what discourses and imaginaries are being shaped about CCUS? Who/what is included/excluded? By whom? And what are the political and societal functions of these discourses and imaginaries?
  2. Analyzing the influence of discourses and imaginaries: how do these discourses and imaginaries come into being and (do not) gain power? How do they stick? How do they influence change/inertia in particular socio-technical settings?
  3. Mobilizing the analyses: how can scholars use the aforementioned inquiries to renew and open up science-society relations and enable transformative change? What methods, skills and knowledge are needed to foster transformative discourses and imaginaries?



Carton, W., Asiyanbi, A., Beck, S., Buck, H. J., & Lund, J. F. (2020). Negative emissions and the long history of carbon removal. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 11(6), e671.

Hajer, M. A. (1995). The politics of environmental discourse: Ecological modernization and the policy process. Clarendon Press.

Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S. H. (Eds.). (2015). Dreamscapes of modernity: Sociotechnical imaginaries and the fabrication of power. University of Chicago Press.

Kovacic, Z., Strand, R., & Völker, T. (2019). The circular economy in Europe: Critical perspectives on policies and imaginaries. Routledge.

Scoones, I., Leach, M., & Newell, P. (2015). The politics of green transformations. Taylor & Francis.

Sovacool, B. K. (2021). Reckless or righteous? Reviewing the sociotechnical benefits and risks of climate change geoengineering. Energy Strategy Reviews, 35, 100656.

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C.4 Grassroots movements for energy transition – energy citizens in action

Organizers: Elisabeth Unterfrauner, Judith Feichtinger, Maria Schrammel
ZSI GmbH, Austria

Clean energy transition is a pressing global challenge not only for environmental concerns, but also for economic reasons in times of energy crises. The issues of both energy security and climate crisis are firmly on the European agenda. Further has the panorama in the energy sector recently changed, with rapid price rises hitting consumers and raising concerns about the security of energy supplies. All these developments show the urgency of the low-carbon transition ever more clearly. For a solution we do not only need technological advancement, but a societal change from a neoliberal, consumer-oriented regime towards an alternative citizen-focused regime, from a centralized model of the energy market to a decentralized one. Individuals are at the core of the energy transition. Over 50% of final energy consumption in the EU is accounted for by private households and by (passenger) transport (Eurostat, 2019). This means it is crucial to question, discuss, and understand the role of people and communities in the energy transition. The attributed role of individuals and collectives can have a broad range from passive consumers being part of a top-down transition to more active concepts of individuals and communities.

The session will be split into two parts. The first part is dedicated to brief paper presentations, setting the basis for interactive discussion in a world café format in the second part. We highly encourage case studies, conceptual papers on energy citizenship and academic papers on grassroots movements in the energy transition. Key questions to be discussed can be the following but are not limited to: i) What is the role of energy citizens in energy transition? ii) Which barriers and opportunities do grassroots movements face in the energy transition? iii) Which practical and theoretical insights can be gained from implementing grassroots initiatives such as energy communities? iv) What do decentralised models of energy production and consumption need to flourish in the future?

This session goes beyond disseminating project results; it rather combines newest academic insights, with practical experiences and enables discussions across projects and session participants.

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C.5 Actor-based inclusive energy-secure transition in Europe

Organizers: Javanshir Fouladvand1, Özge Okur2
1: Utrecht University, the Netherlands,; 2: Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), the Netherlands

The energy transition is a high priority in the European countries’ policies. Along with achieving the climate change goals, energy security and independence, particularly from Russian natural gas, are the main drivers for such policies in this region. Although the targets and goals are explicit, the processes for achieving them include considerable challenges, as this transition involves a broad range of actors: citizens, local communities, companies, local authorities, government representatives, advisory bodies, etc. These various actors have different perceptions about the available resources (e.g. geothermal, solar and hydrogen), behavioural attributes (e.g. individual motivations and preferences) and institutional settings (e.g. CO2 taxes and subsidies). However, the key to a successful energy transition is understanding all actors’ perceptions and participating all of them in the decision-making processes [1, 2]. It is also particularly important to get marginalized and vulnerable actors engaged to ensure a just and inclusive transition [3].
This session is focused on novel research aiming to understand different actors’ perceptions and highlights participatory decision-making approaches to make an inclusive and energy-secure transition for European countries. This includes, but is not limited to, topics such as:

  • Motivations, preferences and behaviours of actors for the energy transition;
  • The role of citizen initiatives, energy communities, and collective action;
  • Ensuring inclusive and just energy transition;
  • Participatory decision-making and co-creation approaches for the energy transition;
  • Exploring national and international policies (e.g. incentivizing, prohibiting, regulatory, etc.);
  • Energy security and independence in the energy transition.

The session welcomes empirical and computational studies (including questionnaire-based, serious gaming, equilibrium modelling, optimization, agent-based modelling and simulation) as well as theoretical studies. The studies should contribute to facilitating European countries’ decision-making processes to achieve their energy transition targets.
[1] Farla, J. C. M., Markard, J., Raven, R., & Coenen, L. E. (2012). Sustainability transitions in the making: A closer look at actors, strategies and resources. Technological forecasting and social change, 79(6), 991-998. [2] Geels, F. W., Sovacool, B. K., Schwanen, T., & Sorrell, S. (2017). The socio-technical dynamics of low-carbon transitions. Joule, 1(3), 463-479. [3] Hanke, F., & Lowitzsch, J. (2020). Empowering vulnerable consumers to join renewable energy communities—Towards an inclusive design of the clean energy package. Energies, 13(7), 1615.

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