1st Edition

Energy as a Sociotechnical Problem An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Control, Change, and Action in Energy Transitions

Edited By Christian Büscher, Jens Schippl, Patrick Sumpf Copyright 2019
    304 Pages
    by Routledge

    304 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Energy as a Sociotechnical Problem offers an innovative approach to equip interdisciplinary research on sociotechnical transitions with coherence and focus. The book emphasizes sociotechnical problems in three analytical dimensions:

    - In the control dimension, contributing authors examine how control can be maintained despite increasing complexity and uncertainty, e.g., in power grid operations or on energy markets;

    - In the change dimension, the authors explore if and how change is possible despite the need for stable orientation, e.g., regarding discourses, real-world labs and learning;

    - Finally, in the action dimension, the authors analyze how the ability to act on a permanent basis is sustained despite opaqueness and ignorance, exemplified by the work on trust, capabilities or individual motives.

    Drawing on contributions from engineering, economics, philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology, the book assembles a range of classic and current themes including innovation, resilience, institutional economics, design or education. Energy as a Sociotechnical Problem presents the ongoing transformation of the energy complex as a multidimensional process, in which the analytical dimensions interact with each other in shaping the energy future. As such, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars of energy transitions, energy science and environmental social science more generally, as well as to practitioners working within the field of energy policy.

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Christian Büscher, Jens Schippl and Patrick Sumpf

    Chapter 2: Framing Energy as a Sociotechnical Problem of Control, Change, and Action

    Christian Büscher

    Part I: Sociotechnical Problem of Control

    Chapter 3: Power Systems in Transition: Dealing with Complexity

    Wolfgang Kröger and Cen Nan

    Chapter 4: Aligning Institutions and Technologies in Energy Systems

    Rolf W. Künneke

    Chapter 5: Exposure and Vulnerability of the Energy System to Internal and External Effects

    Marcus Wiens, Wolfgang Raskob, Florian Diehlmann, Stefan Wandler, and Frank Schultmann

    Part II: Sociotechnical Problem of Change

    Chapter 6: Real World Experiments as Generators of Sociotechnical Change

    Matthias Gross

    Chapter 7: Learning and Disruptive Innovation in Energy Transitions: Who Causes Which Constraints in the German Electricity Transition?

    Gerhard Fuchs

    Chapter 8: Energy System Transformation and Inertia in the UK: A Discourse-Institutional Perspective

    Audley Genus, Marfuga Iskandarova and Leigh Champagnie

    Part III: Sociotechnical Problem of Action

    Chapter 9: The Energy System and Trust: Public, Organizational, and Transsystemic Perspectives

    Patrick Sumpf

    Chapter 10: Shaping Our Energy Future: The Irreducible Entanglement of the Ethical, Social, and Technical Realms

    Rafaela Hillerbrand

    Chapter 11: Technology and Motives: The Challenge of Energy Consumption Behavior

    Siegmar Otto and Inga Wittenberg

    Addendum: Observing Sociotechnical Problems

    Chapter 12: Observing Amplified Sociotechnical Complexity: Challenges for Technology Assessment Regarding Energy Transitions

    Todd R. La Porte

    Chapter 13: Energy as a Sociotechnical Problem: A Concluding Discussion

    Christian Büscher, Jens Schippl and Patrick Sumpf


    Christian Büscher is a senior researcher at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany.

    Jens Schippl is a senior researcher at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany.

    Patrick Sumpf is a research associate at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany.

    "This book follows a promising approach in putting together various interdisciplinary and up-to-date perspectives on energy transitions in a structured way. It thereby provides interesting new insights for further understanding interrelations of circumstances and finding ways for handling the complexity of energy transitions within a socio-technical background." -- Bert Droste-Franke, Head of Energy Department, EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment GmbH, Germany

    "This is a timely and ambitious collection of disciplinary perspectives on the rapidly accelerating shift towards energy transition. By framing the process as a "socio-technical problem", the authors provide an integrative view, which is direly needed to tackle the challenges of this real-world experiment." -- Bernhard Truffer, Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Switzerland, and Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

    "You won’t find better proof of the value added by a truly interdisciplinary approach to key sociotechnical problems than this book. The last chapter summarizing and demonstrating the case for a more expansive, integrated thinking is the best introduction I know for more effectively addressing the energy transitions taking place across much of the world." -- Emery Roe, Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, University of California, Berkeley, USA