Renewable energy implementation and use in German regions: Contributions to regional energy transition strategies considering context, time and practice

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The German energy system is under transformation. The so-called Energiewende (in English, Energy turn) relies, among other things, on renewable energies for building a more sustainable energy system. Regions (Landkreise) are one relevant level where different administrative bodies make decisions and plans both for the implementation and for the use of renewable energies. However, in order to realize the goals of the Energiewende, developments in the wider society are necessary. This is why, scientific research can and should foster such developments with more research on the social aspects of energy-related topics.
The present work contributes to the understanding of transition processes towards a sustainable use of regional renewable energy by focusing on the role of contextual conditions, practical experiences, and temporal dynamics in the implementation and use of renewable energy in German regions. In this way, this work wants to contribute fostering the development of regional energy transition strategies for the realization of the Energiewende. The conceptual background for this piece of transformation research lies in three bodies of literature dealing respectively with transitions of socio-technical systems, transformations of socioecological systems, and time ecology. From a critical engagement with this literature, three main results have emerged. First, an evidence-based, spatially distinct analysis of contextual conditions for the use of renewable energy in all German regions has resulted in the identification of nine types of regions, so-called energy context types. Second, empirical research on practices in regional settings learned from the knowhow of actors from regional administration has shown that political and economic conditions are crucial as well as that process management, exchange, and learning are helpful for renewable energy implementation. Third, conceptual work about a deeper understanding of the temporal dimensions of transformation processes has made it possible to point out a three-step approach to include temporal dynamics into sustainability transformations management - the time-in-transformations-approach.
The literature suggests that regions need to be treated individually; but developing an energy transition strategy for each region individually would be extremely resource intensive. Overall, my work outlines a compromise for a more efficient approach towards regional energy transition strategies which still considers the individuality of regions. As a result, I suggest to develop generic regional energy transition strategies that are adapted to each of the nine energy context types of German regions, that include the experiences of practitioners, and that consider temporal dynamics of transformation processes. Transdisciplinary research is a promising approach to meet many of the challenges for the realization of the Energiewende. A transdisciplinary steering board on the national level could create generic regional energy transition strategies that guide the energy transition and give clear goals and orientation for the realization of policies on the lower levels. On the regional level, these strategies would need to be adapted with regard to each region´s situation. Relying on the results of my research, I conclude that this could also be informed through transdisciplinary processes.
Translated title of the contributionImplementierung und Nutzung von erneuerbaren Energien in deutschen Regionen : Beiträge zu regionalen Energiewendestrategien unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Kontext, Zeit und Praxis
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLüneburg
Number of pages160
Publication statusPublished - 14.01.2019