Renewable Energies: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Renewable Energies

1st Edition

By Matthias Gross, Rüdiger Mautz


176 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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Renewable Energy normally refers to usable energy sources that are an alternative to fuel sources, but without the negatively evaluated consequences of the replaced fuels. Although energy issues have a long tradition in sociology and other social sciences, it may now be high time to conceptualize these in sociological terms as the lynchpin in our understanding of the way societies are set to develop in the 21st century.

This concise book focuses on sociological attempts at better framing contemporary theories of energy transformations and to deliver an accessible overview on the relationships between different types of renewable energy sources and their practical usages in modern societies. A strong focus is laid upon new forms of environmental governance and unavoidable knowledge gaps triggered by attempts to transform contemporary energy systems to renewable ones.

Critical topics include the challenge of transition from centralized to decentralized system structures, the integration of renewable energies into existing energy structures or the replacement of these, coping strategies to unforeseen risks and conflict issues, and socio-cultural reservations to new technologies connected to renewable energies.


'The ongoing transition to renewable energy sources is much more than a substitution of fossil fuels by alternative energy carriers. The great merit of this book is to shed light on the interdependency of new forms of energy provision with profound changes in our societies and to show that social sciences are essential for understanding this challenge.' - Harald Rohracher, Professor of Technology and Social Change, Linköping University

It is a great merit of this book to alert to the effects of the energy transition as a real world experiment. […] Gross and Mautz clarify that such real world experiments cannot be assessed with classical tools of risk assessments since there are no models or reliable data available to cope with the complexity of the processes involved. Therefore, a high level of ignorance is involved so that trust in experts and politics becomes ever more important. – Christian Büscher, Technology Assessment: Theory and Practice

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The next great experiment 2. Energy and Society: Energetic foundations of sociology 3. Contemporary Social Theories of Energy Transitions 4. Wind, Solar, and Biomass in Sociotechnical Transition 5. Renewable Energy from Below the Ground 6. Political Regulation and New Forms of Environmental Governance 7. Energies in Conflict: New restraints and old obstacles 8. Integrating Renewable Energies into Existing Electricity Systems 9. Conclusion: Nonknowledge and Exnovation as Progress

About the Authors

Matthias Gross is professor of Environmental Sociology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig, and, by joint appointment, the University of Jena, Germany. His recent research focusses on the evolution of alternative energy systems, the centrality of ignorance in engineering, and experimental practices in society. His most recent monograph is Ignorance and Surprise: Science, Society, and Ecological Design (2010, MIT Press).

Rüdiger Mautz is senior research scientist at the Sociological Research Institute of Göttingen (SOFI), Germany. His recent research concentrates on energy system transitions and the social dynamics of renewable energies. His most recent book (together with A. Byzio and W. Rosenbaum) is Auf dem Weg zur Energiewende: Die Stromproduktion aus erneuerbaren Energien in Deutschland (2008, Universitätsverlag Göttingen).

About the Series

Key Ideas

This popular series covers the main concepts, issues, debates and controversies in sociology and the social sciences. The books are concise and informative yet lively. Written by leading authorities in the field, they give students access to 'new sociology' in manageable form.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General