Breaking the Rules! Energy Transitions as Social Innovations

The Leibniz Research Alliance is hosting an international conference entitled “Breaking the Rules! Energy Transitions as Social Innovations” that will take place on June 14th – 15th, 2018, at WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

The transformation of energy systems has profound implications for the ways in which our societies are organized, and must therefore be understood as process of social change and social innovation. In many ways, energy systems structure our economies and mirror our attitudes and values regarding the definition of public goods, of justice, and of equity. The transition from one system to another calls these habits, values, practices, and norms into question, and replaces them with others, in a process that is necessarily conflictive and that may surpass our traditional (educationally formed) knowledge and understanding of energy. Among others, energy transitions challenge our basic understanding of what energy means for our everyday lives, where and by whom it should be produced, and how it should be distributed and traded. The range of possible transition pathways is spurring the imagination and the creativity of individual entrepreneurs, large companies, collectives, utilities, and many more. At the same time, these highly innovative dynamics are being resisted by incumbents and increasingly also by local protest groups.

The conference invites international scholars to discuss social innovations in the context of energy transitions, and to spark a debate about their meaning for theories of social innovation, for questions of energy governance, for the evolution of social energy innovations and how they challenge existing power structures in the energy sector. The conference is guided by four overarching themes, each of which will be explored in at least two conference sessions.

For a detailed overview of conference themes, sessions and session convenors please click here.


  • Theorizing social energy innovations
  • Governing social energy innovations
  • Drivers and obstacles to social energy innovations
  • Transforming existin gpower structures through social energy innovations


  • Politicizing clean energy transitions: transformative politics and the popularization of social innovations
  • Social innovations in energy transition through transdisciplinary research
  • Governing urban innovations in energy and climate governance: closing the gap between leaders and laggards
  • Real life experiments as a governing tool for social innovations in the energy sector
  • Digitized energy transitions and social change
  • Backward oriented social innovations: How populist movements can stop clean energy transitions
  • Enabling citizens to engage in energy-related decision-making processes: The role of education, participation and ownership for a successful energy transition
  • Subsurface energy – challenges, constraints, acceptance

We invite paper presentations that either

  • explore one of the broader conference themes, or
  • relate to one of the specific conference sessions.

Abstracts should not exceed 500 words, and must be submitted in English language to Leslie Quitzow by March 1st, 2018 ( & CC session convenor). Please be sure to include your name, institution, and the name of the conference session that you are applying for. Please direct all questions regarding the session design, presentation format, expected content etc. to the session convenor. Questions regarding overall conference organization may be directed to Leslie Quitzow.

Successful applicants will be notified by March 15th, 2018. Presenters will also be invited to submit their full papers after the conference for possible publication in a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal (the journal will be announced in March). Those interested in participating in this process are asked to submit their full papers by July 15th, 2018 for review (one month after the conference). The special issue will be published in mid-2019.

For any further organizational questions, please also contact Leslie Quitzow.

Cite this blog post
Nathalie Ortar (2018, January 18). Breaking the Rules! Energy Transitions as Social Innovations. Energy Anthropology Network. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from

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