The journal "Environmental Innovation and Societal Transition - EIST" (impact factor 2019: 8,4), published by Elsevier, focuses on the analysis of processes of innovation and transformation towards sustainability in the fields of energy, transport, agriculture and water. Accordingly, it is one of the best-known publication outlets for REENEA.
Recently, the second REENEA article entitled "The fragility of regional energy transitions" was published online and will go to press in the December issue. Camilla Chlebna and Jannika Mattes deal with the energy transition in Oldenburg: For each phase they describe the fundamental fragility of such transformation processes. In Oldenburg, this fragility is particularly pronounced in the current consolidation phase. However, the flexible response of regional actors on the ground will ensure further transformation. The article shows that energy transitions remain fragile even in supposedly "successful" regions. The transformation process can be delayed or interrupted at any time due to social and political dynamics within the region and their interaction with those outside the region. Until 15th October 2020, the article is available free of charge at this link. After that the authors and the REENEA team will be happy to make it available directly.
Additionally, the first REENEA paper by Sebastian Rohe has been published in the September issue of EIST. The paper entitled ‘The regional facet of a global innovation system: Exploring the spatiality of resource formation in the value chain for onshore wind energy’ had already been published online by the journal in February and has now been printed. Until 27th October 2020, the article is available free of charge via this link. After this, Sebastian and the REENEA team will be happy to provide it directly.
This year's 11th International Sustainability Transition (IST) Conference was held for the first time as an online event from August 18-21, 2020. Organised by the Austrian Institute of Technology and the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, around 650 international researchers presented their latest findings under the title "Governance in an Era of Change - Making Sustainability Transitions Happen". These were discussed in live lectures, as posters, in gallery sessions, as well as in breakout rooms and were accompanied by a virtual framework programme.
Meike Löhr presented the paper "Transition work: Analysing transition processes as interplay of actors, institutions and technologies - evidence from the German wind sector". Together with Camilla Chlebna and Jannika Mattes, she developed the concept "Transition work". This concept adapts the "institutional work" approach to transition processes. Central elements of the approach are the three forms "create, maintain and disrupt", which can be used to record the activities of actors in transition processes and to examine the development of institutions, actors and technologies. The authors apply the concept empirically to the wind energy transition processes in Hamburg and the Uckermark. A comparison of the regions shows that transition processes consist of all three elements, i.e. "creation, maintenance and disruption" but that their occurrence in the regions is very different. This points to a more consolidated transition process in Hamburg than in the Uckermark.
From July 1st to 3rd 2020, international scholars from different fields met at the annual conference of EGOS, the European Group for Organizational Studies. The conference was hosted by the University of Hamburg and took place as a virtual event. Jannika Mattes participated in the track “Sustainability Transitions: Bridging Systems and Organizational Perspectives to Tackle Grand Challenges” hosted by Jochen Markard, Birthe Soppe and Taran M. Thune. About 30 scholars from the fields of organizational studies and sustainability transition discussed perspectives that draw upon organizational and societal levels to enhance our understanding of complex transition processes. While the constructive debate highlighted insights into two largely separate debates and identified fruitful connection points, the disciplinary borders also remained visible, particularly in regard to promising outlets for publication. Jannika Mattes presented a conjoint paper with Meike Löhr that is entitled “Facing transition phase two: Actor strategies in a stagnating acceleration phase”. It investigates how different actor groups react to the current dynamics in the field of wind energy.
Actors are shaping the energy transition processes taking place worldwide not least through their convictions. In her thesis Meike Löhr examines the understanding and beliefs of actors and actor coalitions of energy transitions in Denmark, Germany and France in order to analyse the cognitive dimension of change and to contribute to a better understanding of energy transition processes.
Based on 71 expert interviews coupled with document analysis, this thesis traces the development and phases of the three transition processes from the 1970s to the present day. It highlights the shared transition goals and divergent transition paths in a country comparison. In a mixed methods approach combining qualitative content and cluster analysis, two different actor coalitions per country are being analysed based on the advocacy coalition framework. Their (un)shared understanding of energy transitions nevertheless shows a growing consensus about energy transitions. Traditional coalition borders as well as former lines of conflict over renewables and fossil fuels become less important. A “transition coalition” evolves – in increasing intensity from France over Germany to Denmark.
By building bridges between political science research and transition research, this thesis analyses the cognitive dimension of change and the determinants of energy transitions. This is a basic prerequisite for the design, implementation and acceleration of energy transitions.
How can the rollout and diffusion of wind energy in Europe be designed in an acceptable and inclusive manner? This question was discussed by experts at the final conference of the EU project ’Win-Wind’ in Berlin on the 27th and 28th of February 2020. Sebastian Rohe from the REENEA team was among the 60 participants from science, politics, civil society and business.
Twelve partner organisations from six European countries were involved in the inter- and transdisciplinary Win-Wind project. One project goal was the transfer of experience, planning practices, policy recommendations and business models from wind energy model regions to regions where wind energy expansion has not yet progressed far. Furthermore, the project provides impulses for the development of a Europe-wide guideline and criteria catalogue for ‘fair wind energy’.
At the conference, it became clear that the acceptance of wind energy does not depend on the distance between residential buildings and wind farms. However, the participation of citizens and municipalities in the creation of economic value can certainly contribute to an accepted diffusion. But an inclusive, open and transparent planning process is also of great importance. Regional decision-makers in politics and administration are key players in this process. Sebastian Rohe referred to their important role during the conference, as well as to the importance considering regional differences and particularities in specific dimensions of acceptance. Sebastian Rohe and Camilla Chlebna have also written a journal article on these topics, that is currently under review.
Wind energy can be understood as an innovation system in which resources (knowledge, markets, investments, legitimacy) are decisive drivers for the development and diffusion of the technology. But how do different companies along the value chain create and use these resources at a regional level?
Sebastian Rohe examines this question in his contribution "The regional facet of a global innovation system", which has now been published in "Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions". This is the first time we have been able to publish partial results from the REENEA project in a scientific journal. Empirically, the article is based on the case study of the wind energy sector in the Oldenburg region, for which the REENEA team conducted interviews with a total of 31 experts.
The article looks at and discusses the "spatiality of resource formation" for all value chain segments: From turbine production, to project development, downstream services, and the operation of wind farms. In manufacturing, for example, the required knowledge is concentrated in regions or company headquarters of the turbine producers, while market success is determined by the sales price on (inter)national markets. In contrast, market access in project development is a customized, spatially sticky resource that depends on access to regional actor networks (such as land owners or licensing authorities). Project developers and plant operators can increase the legitimacy of wind energy diffusion through regionally tailored practises and business models. Financial investments, in turn, are no longer regionally tied, as wind farms are increasingly perceived as attractive investment objects on global financial markets.
From Wednesday to Friday the community of researchers on questions of the geography of innovation from all over the world congregated in (very rainy and foggy) Stavanger in Norway. 312 papers were presented to a total of more than 400 researchers from 39 different countries at this fifth instance of the bi-annual conference. Jannika Mattes and Camilla Chlebna represented REENEA with two papers that the team currently works on.
Camilla presented a paper called “Grasping regional development: Towards a concept of transformative change”. This is a collaborative endeavor together by Camilla and Jannika together with Hanna Martin from the Center for Regional Research at Karlstad University in Sweden. The aim is to make a conceptual contribution towards a better understanding of transformative regional development dynamics by combining elements from economic geography and from transition studies into one integrative framework.
Jannika presented a paper called “Regional Transition Fields: Energy Transitions as Processes of Institutionalization” that she works on with the whole REENEA team. The paper proposes to view regional energy transitions as processes of institutionalization and illustrates this empirically with insights from several of the REENEA case studies on regional energy transition dynamics surrounding the wind energy sector.
Both presentations were received well by the participants who offered very constructive advice and comments which will contribute to the further development of the papers. Camilla and Jannika were very much inspired both by the various other presentations as well as by the discussions with colleagues from across the academic field.
The annual Winter Conference of the Regional Studies Association (RSA) took place in London on 14th and 15th November 2019 with almost 200 participants. Camilla Chlebna took part for the last time in her role as Early Careers Representative on the board of the RSA. The task will be taken over by another Early Careers researcher at the beginning of 2020.
Camilla seized the opportunity to present an article she is working on, together with Hanna Martin from Karlstad University in Sweden and with Jannika Mattes, head of the REENEA project. The aim is to develop an integrative, theoretical framework to link the debates on economic geography and transition research in a meaningful way. The conceptual approaches were discussed vividly by those present.
In addition, Camilla and her colleague Donna Carmichael (representative of the doctoral students on the board) organized a network meeting where emerging researchers had the opportunity to exchange ideas directly with experienced colleagues. The meeting was a great success and was highly appreciated by all participants.
Once again the RSA in London offered a good opportunity to consolidate and expand the REENEA network in the field of geographic transformation research.
With more than 2,000 participants from the wind energy industry, the 28th Wind Energy Days ("Spreewindtage") took place in Potsdam, Germany, from 5th to 7th November 2019. Numerous lectures on current challenges in the wind sector accompanied the established network meeting of the German wind industry as well as exhibition stands. Acceptance and continued operation of wind turbines were two of the most discussed topics among the participants.
Meike Löhr and Camilla Chlebna accepted the invitation of the FORWIND Institute of the University of Oldenburg to report on first project results. Camilla Chlebna discussed a subproject with Sebastian Rohe, which deals with the question of the legitimacy of wind energy with regional decision makers. The difference between generally supportive attitudes towards wind energy and the evaluation of concrete effects of wind energy on the regions is striking.
Meike Löhr reported on a subproject with Jannika Mattes, which deals with actor strategies in the current phase of the energy transition. Actors respond with different entrepreneurial strategies to the pressure on the industry caused by changing framework conditions. These may be individually rational, but have different effects on the energy transition process – partly slowing down, partly accelerating the transition.
All in all, the Spreewind Days offered interesting insights into the current burning issues in the wind industry as well as excellent networking opportunities.
The Regional Studies Association (RSA) hosted its annual Student and Early Career Conference in Lincoln, UK from 31st October to 1st November 2019. Camilla Chlebna and Sebastian Rohe participated for the REENEA team, but without travelling to the East English city. Instead, they were linked to the on-site sessions via video chat. The RSA had invited Camilla and Sebastian to virtually attend the conference in order to test this new format. Thus the RSA and REENEA contribute to reducing the number of air trips in academia.
Camilla and Sebastian had the opportunity to talk about two recent REENEA papers. Sebastian presented the project "The Legitimacy of Onshore Wind Energy: Exploring Differences between Decision Makers across Regions". Based on a survey among regional decision makers from Oldenburger Land and Uckermark-Barnim, Sebastian and Camilla compare and contrast different dimensions of acceptance for wind energy development in both regions.
Camilla also presented another paper which she is currently working on with Jannika Mattes and Hanna Martin (Karlstad University, Sweden). The conceptual paper "Grasping regional development dynamics - towards a concept of transformative change" develops an integrative framework to analyse regional path development and sustainability transitions together.
The energy transition in Oldenburg is arousing interest in Australia. At least with the five-member group of energy experts from the Australian state of Victoria, who wanted to learn more about the development of new, regional industries around renewable energies in the northern Netherlands and Lower Saxony. As part of this week long study tour, the travel group (with actors from science, administration and business) also met Camilla Chlebna and Sebastian Rohe from the REENEA team at a stopover in Oldenburg on June 25th. In a half-day workshop, the REENEA team presented the current state of their work and discussed with the Australian experts to what extent the developments in German regions (especially the Oldenburger Land and the Uckermark) are comparable to those in Victoria.
In addition to the metropolis of Melbourne, which is home to around five million people, Victoria also consists of rural areas such as Gippsland, that host the world's largest lignite deposits. This means that the region-specific conditions are completely different from those in the REENEA case study regions, which is why "lessons learned" cannot simply be transferred. Nevertheless, the group discussed some fundamental factors that can foster energy transitions: The need, for example, for the region to reflect on its existing economic, cultural or geographical strengths and to link the use of renewable energies sensibly to these; this is particularly successful if civil society actors are involved in discussions and decisions at an early stage. The promotion of "germ cells" in organisations and networks can also contribute to the development of new ideas, business models or technologies.
The committed exchange that was initiated by REENEA’s Mercator Fellow Prof. Lars Coenen from Melbourne was very instructive and enlightening for both sides. The REENEA team had the opportunity to increase the international visibility of the project results and to obtain further impulses and ideas for the comparison of the six case studies in terms of content and methodology.
From 23 to 26 June 2019 the International Sustainability Transitions Conference took place outside Europe for the first time at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. At the tenth IST Conference, current questions of (energy) transition research were discussed under the topic "Accelerating sustainability transitions: Building visions, unlocking pathways, navigating conflicts". The scientist Meike Löhr presented research results from the REENEA project. These dealt with actor strategies in response to changing conditions in the German wind sector. The introduction of tenders for renewable energies in Germany means a change in the funding system, which poses new challenges for stakeholders - from project planners and financiers to manufacturers. Whilst some particular effects are specific to the German system, the introduction of tenders is an international development as part of the second transition phase which would have to be accompanied by an acceleration of the transition process. Theoretical and practical questions concerning the acceleration of the transition process were the focus of the scientific debate among transition researchers and will also continue to occupy the REENEA team.
On invitation of the regional utility EWE I seized the opportunity to present REENEA and some preliminary results from the case study in the Uckermark region at the EWE regional dialogue session in Strausberg in Brandenburg. Other inputs were an update from the EWE enterprise and a best practice example of a smart energy neighbourhood in the Petershagen/Eggersdorf community. The short input on preliminary results from the case study resulted in a lively exchange amongst the present regional representatives. The contents were vehemently discussed amongst the around 20 participants and I was able to collect numerous recommendations for further interview partners and also was able to broaden our understanding of the region even further.
The annual conference of the Regional Studies Association (RSA) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, was attended by around 460 scientists, including three members of REENEA. A special session organized by the REENEA team focused on the social and spatial dynamics of regional energy transitions. The topicality and relevance of the research area was confirmed by the high number of submissions. The session was the largest of all special sessions at the conference. In a total of five sittings, 14 scientists from all over the world came together to present their projects and discuss their research. The sessions were well attended and the broad topics, including both theoretical and empirical contributions, were discussed vividly.
The REENEA team presented three papers at the conference: Camilla Chlebna and Jannika Mattes presented "When the novelty fades: Socio-technical, spatial and temporal dynamics of energy transitions", which has already been published as a working paper. In the second session Sebastian Rohe presented his paper "The regional facet of a global innovation system", in which he examines the significance of the regional level for the onshore wind energy innovation system and which is currently being reviewed. Finally, Jannika Mattes and Meike Löhr presented their article "Facing transition phase two", in which they analyse strategic responses of actors in the wind energy sector to changing framework conditions.
Overall, the conference offered a very good opportunity to develop a network for researchers in the field of Regional Energy Transitions within the Regional Studies Association, to further publicise the REENEA project and to discuss project results with colleagues with similar research interests.
On Saturday Jannika Mattes and Camilla Chlebna took part in the second Network Meeting for Early- and Mid-Career Women of the RSA. Jannika Mattes talked about the special challenges and strategies around obtaining a professorship and reported about her own experiences.
"Transitions to where? Shared values and visions for sustainability transitions" was the motto of the fourth NEST conference, which took place in Portugal on the 4th and 5th of April 2019. Around 80 young scientists met in Lisbon to exchange their ideas on this topic and present their research on various sustainability issues.
The REENEA team was represented by Sebastian Rohe, who presented the first paper of his dissertation. He examines the importance of the regional level for the wind energy sector on the basis of the first case study in the Oldenburg region. A conclusion from his paper: While knowledge is increasingly universally applicable and globally exchanged in this sector, the interaction of regional actors and networks remains crucial to create new markets and legitimacy for the technology.
Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to present a glimpse of the REENEA research and to establish further networks in the diverse and interdisciplinary community of “sustainability transitions".
Around 20 participants, mostly interviewees from the Oldenburg case study, but also other interested parties from the regional energy sector, gathered for an afternoon at the PFL cultural centre to learn about the first REENEA project results and to reflect on particular aspects in more detail. Roland Hentschel, chairman of the regional energy cluster OLEC, welcomed the participants and emphasised some of the current dynamics in the sector. This was followed by a general insight into the course of the project and on some special features of the wind sector in the Oldenburg region by Prof Dr Jannika Mattes, head of the REENEA team. Then the participants split into two groups: 1) One group dealt with the course of change so far and with the current characteristics of the wind sector in the region. 2) The second group dealt with acceptance of wind turbine roll-out and discussed influential factors and actors. Strengthened by coffee and cake, a summary of the workshop results and some highlights from further case studies in Magdeburg, Hamburg and the Uckermark followed. The participants found the actor structures and other specificities of these regions in comparison with Oldenburg particularly interesting. The tight network of the local actors, for example, has emerged as a specific feature of the wind sector in Oldenburg. The grown structures and the close relationships associated with them prove to be a significant locational factor. At the same time, the supra-regional perception of Oldenburg as a research location appears to be expandable. The event ended with lively discussions amongst the stakeholders as well as with the REENEA team.
Dr Hanna Martin visited the REENEA team for one week, from 4th to 8th March. It was a week full of interesting conversations, fruitful exchanges and mutually beneficial feedback on ongoing work:
is a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Regional Studies at Karlstad University in Sweden. She is also employed as a researcher at the Department for Business Administration at the Business School at Gothenburg University, Sweden. Hanna has a PhD in social and economic geography from Lund University, Sweden that she completed in 2016. Her research interest lies at the intersection of economic geography and regional development, innovation studies and socio-technical transition studies. During her visit at Oldenburg University she joined the REENEA team to discuss different theoretical and empirical approaches for grasping grand societal challenges. The core challenge was the framing of regional transformations as social processes.
On Friday 8th March Dr Hanna Martin and the REENEA team were joined by Prof Jens Köhrsen for a one-day workshop:
is an assistant professor at Basel University in Switzerland. Jens’ background is in sociology, religious studies and transitions research. He currently works on a project on “ ” which focuses on the role of religion in sustainability transitions. One particular focus of the workshop was the application of sociological theory to regional transitions. Jens presented a which uses field theory to analyse the transition process in the Northern German city of Emden. The workshop participants discussed ways of developing field theory further to understand better the dynamics of interaction between field actors.
The collaboration between the involved researchers will continue with further visits and joint publications already underway.
Jannika Mattes and Sebastian Rohe participate as experts in the round table discussion on wind energy organised by the Landkreis Wesermarsch in Brake. The title of their lecture is 'Vielfältige Akteure und gegensätzliche Interessen im Windenergieausbau: Energiewandel als sozialer Prozess'.
A second time Camilla Chlebna seized the opportunity to present REENEA’s first paper output “When the novelty fades – The role of fragile stabilisation for regional energy transitions” to the regional studies community as she attended the annual RSA winter conference in London. Here are some impressions. More than 200 participants from 31 countries presented their research at the conference titled “New Horizons for Cities and Regions in a Changing World”. Both at fringe networking events as well as at the conference Camilla was able to further expand the REENEA network.
Around 50 participants, both PHD students and early career researchers (within 5 years of finishing their PHD), met at the yearly Student and Early Careers Conference of the RSA in Brighton, UK. In this relatively small setting emerging researchers could exchange career development tips, for example on publication strategies, and had the opportunity to present their current projects. As Early Careers Representative on the board of the RSA Camilla Chlebna attended this conference and she also seized the opportunity to gain feedback on the first REENEA paper “When the novelty fades – The role of stabilisation for regional energy transitions” from the community of emerging researchers at the RSA. Feedback was very positive and constructive and will contribute greatly to the further development and improvement of the paper.
To kick off the REENEA case study in and around Magdeburg, Meike Löhr and Sebastian Rohe travelled to the state capital of Saxony-Anhalt during the week of 22-25 October. There, they attended the seminar of the industry association BWE "Basics of onshore wind energy". In the three-day seminar not only technical, legal and economic fundamentals for the planning and operation of wind turbines were conveyed, but also current challenges and developments in the sector were discussed. The seminar was accompanied by an excursion to Enercon in Magdeburg-Rothensee. The REENEA team also used the stay in Magdeburg to conduct a first expert interview in the case study region and to gain further contacts.
On 27th and 28th September a group of REENEA researchers visited WindEurope, Europe’s largest wind energy fair, in Hamburg. Both at the industry conference as well as at the wind energy fair they gained an impression of the challenges of and the current debates and themes within the German, the European, and the global wind energy sector. At the fair they made interesting contacts and further expanded the network of the REENEA team.
Following an intensive exploratory period, the regions for the next case studies in the REENEA project have been agreed. To allow a clear focus REENEA uses small scale regions (NUTS3 level or “Landkreis” in Germany) as starting point but remains open for the regional boundaries which agents define themselves. Following the pilot study in Oldenburg case studies in Uckermark, in and around Magdeburg as well as in Hamburg are currently being started. Case studies in Bremerhaven/Cuxhaven and Nordfriesland will follow. At the same time the REENEA team also considers developments on the super-regional [and international] level and will therefore do interviews with agents who have this perspective in parallel to the regional case studies.
At the Science Soirée, the audience is appointed in a lottery. Jannika Mattes presented empirical results from the Oldenburg case study of the REENEA project in front of about 30 people. In the discussion that followed, it particularly became clear how important also interested citizens regard social science research in relation to energy transitions.
Jannika Mattes, Camilla Chlebna, Meike Löhr, Sebastian Rohe attended the 39th Congress of the German Society for Sociology (DGS) in Göttingen (24.-28.09.2018) with a lecture on 'Regional Transition Fields: Energy Change as a Social Process'. The presentation took place in the joint event of the sections Organizational Sociology and Science and Technology Research, which was entitled "Innovation Fields. Fields of Action for the Coordination of Complex Innovations". In the discussion of the various contributions, it became clear how difficult it is to empirically break down and apply the concept of Strategic Action Fields. At the same time, the various field-theoretical approaches worked as a good link between the very different research areas.
At the annual meeting of the Energy Cluster Oldenburg (OLEC), innovative energy projects from the North-West region around Oldenburg were presented, and regulatory challenges were discussed with stakeholders from science, administration and the economy. The REENEA team contributed to the annual meeting by sharing their first insights regarding the development of the regional wind energy sector: Sebastian Rohe presented first results from the Oldenburg case study to regional energy actors. Therefore, the meeting was a great opportunity to increase the regional impact of the project by sharing some early results and gaining feedback from the practitioners – some of whom had participated in interviews during the field study. After the presentation, there was a lively debate amongst audience members how best to increase the acceptance and legitimacy of the use of wind energy at the regional level – a question which had also been identified by the REENEA team as important within the region. In the final panel discussion, Sebastian Rohe argued to put more effort into the issue of acceptance not only in innovative pilot projects, but also in the routine, business as usual development of established technologies. The discussants further called for the possibility for regional pilot projects to be exempted from certain national regulations to facilitate the testing of new solutions. You can find more information here.
Three members of the REENEA project team represented the department for European Societies at University of Oldenburg at the International Sustainability Transitions Conference in Manchester in the United Kingdom from 11th to 14th June 2018. During four intensive days Jannika Mattes, Meike Löhr and Camilla Chlebna established many new international contacts, heard of interesting current research projects and got to know the political and industrial Manchester along the way. Jannika Mattes presented the status quo of the REENEA project to a full seminar room. Numerous questions both right after her presentation and throughout the conference period show the strong interest that REENEA raised with the transitions community.
More than 500 participants from the regional science community joined the annual meeting of the Regional Studies Association in Lugano at Lake Ceresio in Italian Switzerland in June 2018. Camilla Chlebna represented the University of Oldenburg as Early Careers board member on the governing board of the RSA and also as researcher in the REENEA project. She introduced the theoretical framework of the project and first results from the pilot study in Oldenburg and was able to gather valuable feedback from the regional science community.
On 3rd and 4th May an introductory kick-off workshop organised by the project team of the DFG funded REENEA project led by Prof Jannika Mattes took place at University of Oldenburg. Ten internationally renowned transition scholars followed the invitation to the event titled “Energy Systems in Transition – The Role of Agents in Regional Transition Processes” and gave inspiring talks. Discussions amongst participants immediately after the talks were lively and continued informally over coffee and cake. The REENEA team gained important insights on the relations between agents and institutions and on the relevance of the regional level in wider reaching transition processes. The team wishes to thank the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence “Europeanising Coastal Regions” for the financial support of the workshop.
Jannika Mattes: Lecture at "Uni am Markt", organised by the Center for Lifelong Learning (C3L).