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Policy networks and power relations: What determines the success of social innovation in energy within cities?

: Brunzema, Iska; Stadler, Maria; Brugger, Heike

Volltext urn:nbn:de:0011-n-6427701 (768 KByte PDF)
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Erstellt am: 6.11.2021

European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy -ECEEE-, Stockholm:
eceee Summer Study 2021. Proceedings : eceee 2021 Summer Study on energy efficiency: a new reality?, 7-11 June 2021
Stockholm: ECEEE, 2021
ISBN: 978-91-983878-8-9 (Print)
ISBN: 978-91-983878-9-3 (Online)
European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ECEEE Summer Study) <2021, Online>
Konferenzbeitrag, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer ISI ()
social innovation; social networks; energy policy

Our ability to keep global temperature rise well below 2.0° degrees Celsius will depend not only on technological innovations but also on new ways of thinking, organizing, and doing. These new ways can be understood as social innovations in energy (SIE). SIE can be found on the energy supply side (e.g. energy cooperatives), on the energy demand side (e.g. community-based electricity/heat-storing options) as well as spanning across these classically distinct sides (e.g. prosumaging). SIE have the potential to substantially decrease energy demand and increase citizen engagement as well as acceptance for the energy transition in general and necessary measures in particular. Cities differ quite substantially in their success to implement local measures for global challenges and SIE might play a crucial part therein. We argue that policy networks within cities might be crucial to explain some of these differences. We therefore study how patterns of coordination in policy networks promote or inhibit SIE. A combination of online surveys and qualitative interviews was used to collect network data and different forms of interaction in the exemplary case of the city of Mannheim (Germany). The networks were assessed quantitatively by means of social network analysis. This was supplemented by a qualitative content analysis of the interviews conducted. It was found that not many main players are clustered at the junction of social innovation and the energy system, where they encourage SIE. The focal players interact mainly on the basis of power and trust structures and not on the basis of similar beliefs in the field of SIE. This impedes the emergence of SIEs because they have the potential to affect relationships and network structures and are therefore only promoted in a controlled manner within a limited scope. This work lays an important foundation for future work in which the policy network analysis will be expanded in a comparative manner across six European cities.