Energy as a Sociotechnical Problem: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Control, Change, and Action in Energy Transitions, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Energy as a Sociotechnical Problem

An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Control, Change, and Action in Energy Transitions, 1st Edition

Edited by Christian Büscher, Jens Schippl, Patrick Sumpf


288 pages | 16 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2018-09-19
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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.


"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

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Contributors


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

About the Editors

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.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Energy Transitions

Considerable interest exists today in energy transitions. Whether one looks at diverse efforts to decarbonize, or strategies to improve the access levels, security and innovation in energy systems, one finds that change in energy systems is a prime priority.

Routledge Studies in Energy Transitions aims to advance the thinking which underlies these efforts. The series connects distinct lines of inquiry from planning and policy, engineering and the natural sciences, history of technology, STS, and management. In doing so, it provides primary references that function like a set of international, technical meetings. Single and co-authored monographs are welcome, as well as edited volumes relating to themes, like resilience and system risk.

Key focus areas: socio-technical systems, resilience and sustainability, security and safety, innovation, governance, market design, access, low-carbon development

Dr. Kathleen Araújo is the Director of the Energy Policy Institute with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a consortium of public universities, Idaho National Laboratory, and industry. She is also an Associate Professor in the School of Public Service at Boise State University, where she specializes in policy and innovation systems associated with energy transitions and industrial development.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for this series, please contact Annabelle Harris, Editor for Environment and Sustainability:

Series Advisory Board

Morgan Bazilian, Columbia University, Center for Global Energy Policy (US)

Thomas Birkland, North Carolina State University (US)

Aleh Cherp, Central European University (CEU, Budapest) and Lund University

Mohamed El-Ashry, UN Foundation

Jose Goldemberg, Universidade de Sao Paolo (Brasil) and UN Development Program, World Energy Assessment

Michael Howlett, Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Jon Ingimarsson, Landsvirkjun, National Power Company (Iceland)

Michael Jefferson, ESCP Europe Business School

Jessica Jewell, IIASA (Austria)

Florian Kern, University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit and Sussex Energy Group (United Kingdom)

Derk Loorbach, DRIFT (Netherlands)

Jochen Markard, ETH (Switzerland)

Nabojsa Nakicenovic, IIASA (Austria)

Martin Pasqualetti, Arizona State University, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning (US)

Mark Radka, UN Environment Programme, Energy, Climate, and Technology

Rob Raven, Utrecht University (Netherlands)

Roberto Schaeffer, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Energy Planning Program, COPPE (Brasil)

Miranda Schreurs, Technische Universität Mūnchen, Bavarian School of Public Policy (Germany)

Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba and Royal Society of Canada (Canada)

Benjamin Sovacool, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy