Session Report: Secure, clean and efficient energy

Secure, clean and efficient energy

Parallel session, Tuesday, 24th September 2013, 09:30-12:30, Room I-407, 4th floor

Session report

Chair: Manfred Horvat, Technical University Vienna, Austria
Rapporteur: Andrea Ricci, Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems, Italy
Statement: Kathryn Janda, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Statement: Torbjorn Digernes, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Statement: Gilles Lequeux, European Commission, Belgium
Session Report: Andrea Ricci, Katja Mayer, Manfred Horvat


The session brought together speakers and participants from the natural and social sciences and the humanities, who are experienced, committed and interested in finding adequate forms of collaboration in order to tackle the issues of secure, clean and efficient energy production and consumption and more. Updated information about the state of the preparations of the energy challenge in the new framework programme was presented by Gilles Lequeux.

Before, Lequeux mentioned the contributions of SSH in the last framework programmes. With Framework Programme 5 (FP5) SSH were first involved in the energy research strategies. There were more than 30 socio-economic related energy projects, with a total budget of more than 40 million Euro. In FP6 the SSH involvement was broadened. Foci were: acceptability and implementation of new energy technologies, technology transfer, energy foresight, economic and regulatory aspects, environmental sustainability of energy technologies. In FP7, the focus was on barriers to more efficient behaviour of energy end users, security of Europe’s energy supply including risk analysis, energy foresight network, and energy systems modelling. FP7 saw also the launch of the SET plan, so socio-economic research priorities were aligned with those of the SET plan, but the SSH activities declined in this FP. This should be different in Horizon 2020, for several reasons: the role of SSH as well as Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) will need to be enhanced because comprehensive research and innovation needs to understand non-technological factors even though the energy challenge is mainly technology driven (like the transport challenge), consumers play a crucial role in energy systems especially in the transition to low-carbon energy systems, orientation along societal challenges requires public engagement but also the analysis of environmental and social impact. There have been assessments like this before, e.g. with the SET plan key performance indicators were developed but at those times without social dimension, so how could such social indicators look like?

Lequeux stated further, that SSH will not only be implemented on the level of the Societal Challenge Work programme in Horizon 2020, but also in the whole strategic programme of the Energy Directorate of the EU[1]. “There is an opportunity right now to enforce this integration, as we are now developing so-called integrated road maps to address the energy system challenge.” The Commission wants to overcome the sectorial approach with a systems perspective, and within this SSH but also other crosscutting expertise should be integrated.

According to the European Commission proposal for “Horizon 2020” the societal challenge: Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy will encompass the following broad lines of activities:

  • Reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint by smart and sustainable use;
  • Low-cost, low-carbon electricity supply;
  • Alternative fuels and mobile energy sources;
  • A single, smart European electricity grid;
  • New knowledge and technologies;
  • Robust decision making and public engagement;
  • Market uptake of energy innovation

In the HORIZON 2020 Strategic Programme for the 2014-2016 Work Programme three focal areas are defined for the energy challenge:

  1. Energy efficiency (buildings and industry)
  2. Competitive low carbon energy (renewable technologies, smart grid, storage, fossil fuels)
  3. Smart cities and communities (Integration of transport, energy and ICT aspects)

There will be several initiatives and calls by the Commission, which are specifically interesting to the SSH community:

  • Support to energy and energy technology policy (no call for proposal, but “call for tender”
  • Dedicated themes targeted at SSH will be: human factor in the energy system, modelling, transformation and impact of the energy system (focus area 2), socio-economic research for energy efficiency (focus area 1)
  • But there will also be space for embedding SSH into topics dedicated to technology development.

There will be different approaches towards integration of SSH in the H2020 energy challenge:

a) Embedding related aspects in individual projects, where appropriate.

b) Dedicated socioeconomic topics:

  • The human factor in the energy system
  • Modelling and analysing the energy system, its transformation and impacts
  • Socioeconomic research on energy efficiency
  • The human factor in the energy system
    • Awareness, perceptions, attitudes to technologies and to transition pathways to a low carbon economy
    • Public engagement, measures to launch and stimulate a dialogue with the public
    • Education and training networks (follow up of SET-Plan Education and Training Initiative)
    • Modelling and analysing the energy system, its transformation and impacts
      • Comparative assessment of the impacts and the sustainability performance of technologies and of transformation paths towards a sustainable energy system
      • Modelling the impacts of technological development and innovation on the energy system and its dynamics
      • Socio-economic research
        • Foresight socio-economic activities to support the debate on the development and monitoring of energy efficiency strategies
        • Social, economic, cultural and educational barriers
        • Development of micro-economic analysis of the updated energy efficiency measures.

In addition, relevant studies and tenders to support policy shaping and implementation.

There is a split in the responsibilities of the Commission Directorates: DG Research and Innovation will be responsible for the “production side” of the energy systems and the protection, DG Energy will be responsible for the “demand side” including grid and storage. The energy Challenge in Horizon 2020 will be formally executed by an Executive Agency, not by the Commission directorate directly: The project management activities will be externalized, DG RTD will focus on energy policy related issues.

The working group at the conference identified existing and coming obstacles for the work programme of the Societal Challenge in H2020, but also ways of overcoming them in order to make optimal use of the knowledge, capabilities and skills available.

The following report will summarise discussion threads and is structured in three parts: Objectives, priorities and rationale of the energy theme in Horizon 2020, accompanying challenges, and opportunities in innovative but insufficiently exploited approaches.

  1. 1.     Objectives/priorities

The thematic priorities in the energy theme of Horizon 2020 have been mentioned above:

–      Energy Efficiency (EE)

–      Competitive Low Carbon Energy (LCE)

–      Smart cities and communities

How are SSH already contributing to such themes and how can they be further integrated? “Technological systems and innovative technologies are the solidification of design decisions” (von den Hoeven), or as Latour would put it: “technology is society made durable”. In decision-making processes we are applying SSH related knowledge, when we discuss functionality, efficiency, environmental quality or sustainability, safety, justice, access, privacy and so forth. Therefore, a multi-dimensional approach is needed to energy research in general and technology development in particular:


Horizon 2020 comes with a strong rationale for interdisciplinarity tackling the contemporary challenges of complexity and uncertainty in the development of sustainable and effective energy systems.

A strong rationale for interdisciplinarity

  • Complexity

–      Technology bundles (beware of technology ranking)

–      Trade offs (e.g. food vs energy crops)

–      Infrastructures and services

  • Uncertainty

–      Technological trajectories

–      Scenario dependence

–      Climate change

–      Dynamics of social preference (participatory approaches?) 

In order to realise interdisciplinary research projects for solving societal issues, it is necessary to fully embed SSH in H2020. This means, we need to differentiate between research IN and research WITH SSH. Energy topics open up both potential research questions for SSH taking the lead and designing projects, and SSH being part of projects providing know-how in interaction with other sectors. Whereas multi-disciplinarity means working side by side, we are striving for inter- or transdisciplinary teams that are working together, from the design of the research project until its finalisation.

Speaking of transdisciplinarity, we will also need to account for public participation in decision-making processes. SSH have the experience and the means to ensure and accompany participatory exercises and link together University, Industry, Government, and Citizens /Consumers 

Screen shot 2014-01-03 at 18.36.51

  1. 2.     Challenges

Energy research faces several challenges:

  • Embedding SSH into technology development
  • Resource efficiency AND wellbeing (absolute decoupling)
  • Energy governance (legal, institutional and regulatory framework e.g. harmonisation)
  • Inject SSH in the SET Plan (Integrated Roadmap)
  • How to put the human factor at the centre (understanding non technological factors and the impacts of lifestyle changes and paradigm shifts, whereas at the same time also focus on environmental factors)
  • Cultural and epistemological divide (incl. language!)
  • Translating ambitions into practice (beyond „frameworks“; market uptake)
  • Interdependence: global energy issues/markets
  • Integrate humanities and not only socio-economic sciences (add here a best practice project, like “the waste house”, University of Brighton
  • Complexity of European Research projects: See Katy Janda’s example of “cRRescendo”, optimization of entire communities is better than the optimization of buildings… 4 different countries, multilevel governance problems, multi-technology project, no indicators available to compare the outcomes …
  1. 3.     Innovative but insufficiently exploited approaches
  • Integrated assessment of energy systems

–      The limits of technology ranking

–      Capturing the social dimension of energy systems

  • Real, full internalisation of external costs of energy

–      Realisation of full energy costs requires a further integration of “non monetisable” dimensions (e.g. risk, comfort, etc.) in analytical frameworks

  • Forward Looking Analysis of energy systems

–      Foresight analysis requires the integration of qualitative and quantitative approaches, including scenarios, models but also accounting frameworks.

Furthermore such prognostic exercises will have to be based on thorough historical, socio-economic and cultural analyses of energy systems.

  • Socio-historical dimension of European energy policy

–      What are the impacts of European energy policy and how does it trigger change?

  • Further developing/experimenting participatory approaches (e.g. the Energy Dialogue)

–      Dedicated participatory approaches do take “civic epistemologies” seriously, namely such social and institutional practices by which communities deal with politically relevant knowledge (see Miller 2008). This includes collective settlements in public life regarding the implementation of new technologies or respective legislative frameworks. It will therefore be important to employ SSH expertise and methods in the embedding of “citizen power” into decision-making processes (see figure below). Surveys are definitely not the way to go…. (see Katy Janda’s presentation)


Arneist, 1971

–      SSH helps citizens and policy to raise awareness of the need to act and to promote sustainable lifestyles

–      By learning to understand complex set of values, SSH help turn aspirations into behavioural drivers in decision processes

àHowever this will bring about to understand that contemporary SSH energy research within Horizon 2020:

–      Is a highly interdisciplinary process involving not only science and SSH but also many different types of institutional stakeholders and civil society

–      Requires interest in social impact (specific social indicators but also qualitative assessment of research impact through social research)

–      Is not at all about ex-post technology acceptance, rather it starts with the idea of social acceptability and opens up to many different research strands, such as historical and cultural pre-conditions of Energy usage and other…

–      Being more attentive to diverse experiences with resources, and learning from experiences from nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), shale oil or coal.

Total Costs with Average Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis Ranking

  • Urban energy systems

–      Integration/interaction with urban planning, mobility, intelligent transport systems

–      Synergies (technological, sectoral, e.g. electro mobility + intelligent buildings)

  • Best practices (to avoid reinvent the wheel)

–      Accurate ex post assessment of projects and policies

–      Indicators: realistically measurable (just numbers?)

–      Combining quantitative and qualitative information

–      Adopt “appropriate” (technological) solutions

  • Bringing Social Sciences and Humanities into Engineering Education and Training

–      The SET-Plan Education and Training Roadmap[2] currently does not include SSH embedded in the curricula, more generally it is requested raising more interest in the STEM fields. This will have to change in order to create awareness for horizontal issues but also to attract attention of students not interested in STEM so far.


It will be of particular importance for the energy research field to discuss the challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary or, rather, trans-disciplinary collaboration:

  • Embedding SSH perspectives in the definition and specification of topics and tasks as well as in the implementation of the research activities related to the development, implementation and adoption of new or improved energy policies, technologies, processes and services.
  • Ex-ante and ex-post impact assessment at programme and project level and appropriate interdisciplinary criteria and indicators as well as the assessment of alternative pathways as the basis for taking decisions in research and development processes are issues that have to be addressed.
  • An integrated approach also means embedding SSH into technology development
  • Social innovation regarding participatory approaches involving citizens into decision making processes in terms of technology and policy (which goes far beyond the mere investigation of acceptance towards acceptability)
  • Innovative education in the energy domain needs integrating SSH and STEM training to attract attention of students – developing a multi-dimensional understanding of technology.
  • We need to learn from practices in the past, both policy and R&D related as well as societal energy practices.
  • Joint platforms (synergy platforms) e.g. as CSA projects (see also Lequeux mentioning the call for actions) to develop interdisciplinary approaches in thematic networks providing opportunities for the emergence of new cross-disciplinary communities
  • Target SSH researchers in specific workshops where they can meet STEM researchers and learn about best practice models.
  • Provide examples of showing the involvement of SSH and natural and engineering sciences as well as which roles are played by different values, interests and demands.

The perspectives from the Social Sciences and the Humanities are essential; missing them would mean missing decisive understanding of what will be required to reach the ambitious goals for Europe’s energy system.

[1] Important consultants of the formulation of the H2020 programme were: Joint Programme on the Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of Energy Policies and Technologies: see: or: European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies and their report: An ethical framework for assessing research, production and use of energy, another important inspiration for Horizon 2020 is the European Economic and Social Committee: (see also the report “Needs and methods of public involvement in the energy policy field” aiming at the participation of civil society in energy research and policy making – The committee suggest to europeanize the national energy debates, defining the minimum criteria of energy dialogues, and call for support through Horizon 2020 research. Both the DG Energy and the DG Research and Innovation are supportive of this suggestion!)

For more details of the Horizon 2020 work programmes and calls: