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Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) aspects of the Clean-Energy Transition

LC-SC3-CC-1-2018-2019-2020 (RIA Research and Innovation action)

The clean-energy transition doesn't just pose technological and scientific challenges; it also requires a better understanding of cross-cutting issues related to socioeconomic, gender, sociocultural, and socio-political issues. Addressing these issues will help to devise more effective ways of involving citizens and to better understand energy-related views and attitudes, ultimately leading to greater social acceptability as well as more durable governance arrangements and socioeconomic benefits.

Scope

In 2018, proposals must be submitted under the theme "Social innovation in the energy sector", in 2019 under the theme "Challenges facing carbon-intensive regions" and in 2020 under the theme “Energy citizenship”. They have to address one or several of the questions listed under the respective sub-topics below. All proposals have to adopt a comparative perspective, with case studies or data from at least three European Union Member States or Associated Countries.

2018

Social innovation[1] in the energy sector: The energy transition has given rise to various forms of social innovation, such as the emergence of energy cooperatives or that of energy "prosumers" consuming but also producing energy. Urban areas have emerged as major hubs for these trends, given the close proximity between citizens, businesses and institutions, facilitating linkages between sectors and the emergence of new business and service models, as well as associated governance arrangements. These issues need to be studied in more detail, with a particular focus on the following questions:

  • What characterizes successful examples of social innovation in the energy sector?
  • What enabling conditions facilitate social innovation in the energy sector and how can it be encouraged? What factors work against it?
  • In what way does social innovation contribute to the preservation of livelihoods and the development of new business and service models in the energy sector?
  • In what way does social innovation contribute to making energy more secure, sustainable and affordable? Does social innovation lead to greater competitiveness and if so, how?
  • Under what conditions does social innovation lead to greater acceptance of the transition towards a low-carbon energy system?

2019

Challenges facing carbon-intensive regions: The transition to a low-carbon energy system and economy poses particular challenges for regions that are still heavily dependent on fossil-fuel-based industries or the extraction of fossil fuels themselves ("coal and carbon-intensive regions"). At the same time, this transition offers major opportunities for developing new lines of business and for increasing the competitiveness of structurally weak regions. Focusing on the past 5-10 years up to the present, particular attention should be focused on one or several of the following issues:

  • What are the principal socio-economic challenges facing coal and carbon-intensive regions today and what effect have these had on livelihoods and the sustainability of local and regional economies?
  • What coping strategies have emerged in recent years? What are the principal differences between regions that are coping well and those that are not?
  • To what extent have coal and carbon-intensive regions experienced outward migration in recent years and in what way has this affected their social and demographic composition?
  • What effect, if any, have these changes had on the rise of populism and of anti-democratic attitudes in the regions concerned?

2020

Energy citizenship: SSH research offers many insights into the conditions favouring civic engagement, active participation and interaction with institutional or corporate actors. Such “energy citizenship” is not limited to early technology adopters or environmental activists, and it goes beyond (but also encompasses) mere “consumer involvement”. Rather than using SSH research as an instrument to achieve particular outcomes (e.g., social acceptance) it can help to understand in what kind of environments collaborative goal setting and commitment can take place, how relevant decisions are made and any trade-offs between competing goals are addressed. This has important implications for EU energy policymaking. Proposals are expected to examine the factors affecting the emergence and effectiveness of energy citizenship and its potential for achieving the decarbonisation of the energy system. This should include factors such as digitalisation, social media, social group dynamics (e.g. creating trust, finding shared goals), societal factors (e.g. institutional, corporate or legal environment), demographics and social justice. It should result in practical recommendations for policy-makers. Specifically, proposals are expected to focus on one or several of the following questions:

  • Is energy citizenship more likely to emerge locally, or at regional, national or supranational levels? For what reasons?
  • What is the relative importance of processes internal to relevant social groups (e.g., creating trust and connection, finding shared goals and solutions, building coalitions), as opposed to external environmental variables (e.g., relative openness of institutional or corporate environments, availability of sympathetic interlocutors, access to financial or other sources of support, legal or other obstacles)?
  • What impact does the digitisation of the energy system and the proliferation of social media have on the emergence and consolidation of energy citizenship?
  • Under what conditions is energy citizenship conducive to reaching broader policy goals, particularly the decarbonisation of the energy system, and under what conditions does it have the opposite effect?

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

The proposed research will:

  • provide a better understanding of socioeconomic, gender, sociocultural, and socio-political factors and their interrelations with technological, regulatory, and investment-related aspects, in support of the goals of the Energy Union and particularly its research and innovation pillar;[2]
  • Social innovation[3] in the energy sector (2018): yield practical recommendations for using the potential of social innovation to further the goals of the Energy Union, namely, to make Europe's energy system more secure, sustainable, competitive, and affordable for Europe's citizens;
  • Challenges facing carbon-intensive regions (2019): yield practical recommendations for addressing the challenges of the clean-energy transition for Europe's coal and carbon-intensive regions, including socioeconomic and political ones.
  • Energy citizenship (2020): based on a better understanding of socio-economic, gender, socio-cultural, and socio-political factors, their interrelations with technological, regulatory, and investment aspects, yield practical recommendations for harnessing energy citizenship to achieve the energy and decarbonisation goals in the European Union and Associated Countries.

Cross-cutting Priorities

International cooperation
Socio-economic science and humanities
Gender

[1]Social innovations are defined as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words they are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act. See, Empowering people, driving change, Bureau of European Advisers (BEPA), Brussels (2011), p. 33.

[2]As expressed in the "Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation" Communication (COM [2016] 763)

[3]Social innovations are defined as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words they are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act. See, Empowering people, driving change, Bureau of European Advisers (BEPA), Brussels (2011), p. 33.

Institution
Application date
Country
European Union
Discipline
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology, Media Studies, Philosophy
Social sciences : Communication Sciences, Economics, Environmental Sciences, Gender Studies, Geography, International Relations, Law, Pedagogic & Education Research, Political science, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Social Anthropology, Sociology
Required post-doc experience
Between 0 and 99 years
Grants available
3-10
Award granted
€ 1-3.000.000
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