STS - conferences, IST2012

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Territorial innovation systems in Germany: Re-adaptation and renewable energies
Jannika Mattes, Andreas Huber

Last modified: 2012-03-20


The aim of increasing significantly the share of renewable energy sources in regions entails numerous new challenges. The predominance of traditional large scale energy suppliers is being questioned. Local utilities (“Stadtwerke”) have been re-discovering the economic potential of locally generated electricity and heat. New emerging actors such as local energy cooperatives and private households (“prosumers”) have been pushing into the market. In this process, small-scale regions and their specific institutional settings turn into the geographical core entity for the energy transition.

In this contribution, we look at selected regions and how they adjust to their aim of increasing the share of renewable energies. Our goal is to understand the social and institutional reconfiguration which occurs not only between individual groups of actors, but within the whole regional system. Borrowing freely from regional innovation systems analysis, we differentiate between various involved interest groups that are more or less directly involved in regional energy sectors: the scientific subsystem of universities and private research institutions; the industrial subsystem consisting of companies active in energy supply and services, as well as in the production and installation of material; private households and cooperatives; the political subsystem made up by councils and specialized expert boards; the intermediaries such as company associations and specialized NGOs; and finally the financial subsystem. The complex interplay between these manifold actors and the involved bargaining processes in the regional system are at the core of the analysis.

Besides presenting a theoretical framework for grasping the involved processes of reconfiguration, accommodation and adjustment, we will present first results from case studies conducted in two German regions, an urban one (Bottrop) and a rural one (Ostfriesland). Our conclusions help derive practical implications for regional reconfiguration processes, but also enhance the understanding of the role of regions for green energy systems.