Workshop — Baden, Austria

Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy: Socio-Economic Considerations


This event focussed on gaining understanding of the socio-economic parameters, actors and impacts involved in the transition to a low-carbon society. Participants shared the mechanisms, methods and measures taken to achieving successful implementation.

The transition to a low-carbon society is a multifaceted challenge in which the actors are inter-dependent and for whom the solutions have immediate (local) and long-term (global) benefits. For the transition to be a success, a variety of stakeholders representing socio-economic sectors will need to actively participate: policy makers, energy planners, the research community, academia, businesses and industry, and individuals.

Unfortunately socio-economic considerations are not consistently included in technology R&D programmes and plans - but this is changing. For new technologies, integrated consultation and planning can begin at inception. Universities are increasingly creating cross-departmental programmes where students from engineering, environment, design, architectural, economics and social science departments work together.

For existing technologies entering the market, coherent legal and regulatory frameworks that include socio-economic considerations are key to acceptance. Attempts by policy makers have been successful, while others have not. Examining the conditions that led to success or failure will serve as lessons learned for R&D planners. Investments and fiscal measures (e.g. progressive/regressive tax schemes) are also important. What is feasible? Who pays? Some instruments and policies have shown to be effective in implementing R&D from a socio-economic perspective, particularly the end-user: R&D agencies, industry, and consumers.

Expected Outcome:
The summary of the workshop is expected to inform national R&D policies and plans.

Target Audience:
This event was designed for policy makers, energy planners, socio-economic researchers, R&D experts, and energy technology experts.


Final workshop report


24th May 2011

Welcome: Mayor, City of Baden

Opening Remarks from the EGRD Chair
Rob Kool, Director, International Sustainable Development, NL Agency, Netherlands

Moderator: Sea Rotmann, National Energy Research Institute, New Zealand

Evaluation of European Energy Behavioural Change Programmes
Antoinet Smits, NL Agency, Netherlands

Socio-Economic Drivers in Implementing Bioenergy Projects
Sebastian Elbe, National Task Leader, Bioenergy Implementing Agreement

Social Acceptance of Wind
Stefanie Huber, Project Manager, ENCO Energy, Switzerland

Key Findings

Moderator: Herbert Greisberger, Austrian Society for Environment and Technology

ProjectZero: Lessons Learned in Overcoming Barriers
Christian Eriksen, Project Manager, ProjectZero

Policies and Measures for Organisational Change and Behaviour
Rob Kool, NL Agency

Public Perceptions of Low-Carbon Energy Policy and Technology: Recommendations for Policy Makers and R&D Planners
Paul Upham, Finnish Environment Institute and Centre for Integrated Energy Research, University of Leeds

25th May 2011

Moderator: Rob Kool, NL Agency, Netherlands

Low-Carbon Society Research in the Asia-Pacific Region
Kyoko Miwa, Institute for Global Environment Strategies, Japan

Energy Efficient Communities: Case Studies and Strategic Guidance for Urban Decision Makers
Olivier Pol, Energy Department, Austrian Institute of Technology

Holistic Optimisation Leading to Integration of Sustainable Technologies in Communities
Aideen O'Hora, Project Manager, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Discussion and key findings

Moderator: Robert Marlay, U.S. Department of Energy

Open Discussion

Key questions:

  • What is the role of social science and how best can it feed into technology R&D programmes and policies? What is the realistic timeframe that would enable R&D programmes to synchronise with energy markets?
  • Which social considerations (e.g. health, environmental, lifestyles) can be adequately addressed? Which methods (e.g. impact assessments, stakeholder consultations, and target groups) are found to be the most effective in addressing them? At what point in the R&D planning process should they begin?
  • Which legal and regulatory frameworks are the most conducive to the transition process? What is a manageable scope for these policy frameworks – local, regional or national – and what is the relationship between them?
  • Which economic considerations (e.g. sectoral shifts, employment, energy markets, infrastructure, or trade) are manageable and which financial instruments (e.g. taxes, subsidies, and investment credits) are found to be the most effective?
  • Which methodologies and tools provide the greatest insights for planners? Which data sets (quantitative or qualitative) or indicators are the most effective for socio-economic impact assessments?
  • Which strategies integrate energy, economic, social and environmental issues? Which strategies integrate socio-economic impact assessments into energy plans?

Final Remarks
Rob Kool, Chair, EGRD