INOV - Sociétés innovantes : innovation, économie, modes de vie

Sociotechnical collectives and the energy transition – COLLENER





Submission summary

The process leading to a change in our energy mix and energy consumption pattern has been termed “energy transition”. It has been brought into representation through a diversity of modeling exercises and scenarios, including the assessment of technological potentials – the potential of a given technology to get deployed and contribute to energy production (e.g. 25 GW has been agreed upon as the maximum capacity that could be installed and operated in France) - which operate as visions for the future. Divergences in scenarios have opened up a debate about the path of the transition and its content. Our future energy mix and socio-technical systems will depend a lot on the way in which the New Technologies of Energy (i.e. renewable energies, carbon capture and storage, smart grids, low consumption building …) (NTE) will be developed and deployed, on the types of collectives that will underlie these processes, on the scale and pace of these processes.
One key assumption underlying this research project is that the technological potential albeit a steering vision, does not preexist technology development and deployment. Rather, it is constructed through the social processes of developing and deploying NTE. Technology is approached as a socio–technical collective whose configuration emerges from these processes. Therefore, the COLLENER research project aims at exploring these processes, by following the socio-technical collectives, which underlie the development and deployment of NTE. In doing so, the project aims to reach beyond quantitative visions of the energy transition and explore whether NTE, because of their modularity and potential for decentralization, might contribute to sustainable development and reshape risks, wealth and powers, while contributing the de-carbonation of our economies. The aim is thus as much to learn about the energy transition than about NTE potential for social and environmental recomposition.
The exploration is structured around three emerging dynamics (transnational, national and local) which are at the core of the energy transition :
. the emergence of transnational processes and coalitions of actors which aim at framing the political and regulatory processes of the energy transition in order to scale up the development and deployment of NTE (e.g. Desertec, marine strategic planning, industrial wind power …),
. the emergence of climate-energy policies as a result of a progressive shift from energy supply policies (e.g. wind power or solar policy based on fixed tariffs) towards policies which are more territorialized (e.g. the 2009 EU Directive on renewable energies, PCT and SRCAE in France …)
. the emergence of “renewable energy communities” corresponding to local and collective processes in the domain of development and deployment of NTE and composition of sustainable energy futures (“transition town” movement, “territoires à énergie positive” (CLER, France), cooperative NTE projects …) .
The research will explore the visions, propositions, forces and evolving game of players which steer the emergence of the socio-technical collectives underlying these innovations. It will aim at mapping their institutional, territorial and social ramifications.
The research is based on cases studies in the following areas : solar, onshore wind power, offshore wind power, carbon capture and storage, smart grids, biomass (wood heat), low consumption building. The comparison of the case studies will be structured around the description of “configurations of innovation” along a restricted number of dimension (temporality, diffusion, sharing). This notion is proposed as an infra-language, to be brought into inter-disciplinary elaboration and fine-tuning through an interaction between researchers from and external (scientific and non-scientific) partners to the COLLENER project.

Project coordination

Alain NADAÏ (Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


EDF R&D Electricité de France Recherche et Développement
CERPA Centre d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Paysages
Cemagref / Irstea Bordeaux Institut national de recherche en sciences et technologies pour l'environnement et l'agriculture Bordeaux
PACTE / UJF Politiques publiques, Action politique, Territoires / Université Joseph Fourier
CNRS - EVS Environnement Ville Société
CIRED Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement

Help of the ANR 295,999 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2012 - 36 Months

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