Sociology of European Societies

Emmy Noether junior research group, granted by the DFG (German Research Foundation) in September 2016

Project start: January 2018

Energy transitions are usually analyzed at a general level. This project suggests looking at energy transition as a social process in order to gain in-depth knowledge of the specific processes of interaction that lead to energy transitions. Moreover, the project will ground the analysis empirically and hence add to a debate that has so far been mostly conceptual.

The project draws upon transition literature and complements it with insights from institutional theory and the regional innovation systems approach. The resulting concept of regional transition fields explains why and how actors and institutions from different social fields shape transition processes in the wind energy sector. Scientific, industrial, political, administrative and financial actors as well as intermediaries and citizens are thereby taken into account.

The project describes regional transitions by looking at processes of negotiating, norming and learning at the regional level in the context of their national, European and global embeddedness. Empirically, the project conducts an in-depth analysis of six German regions and analyses the occurring transition dynamics in the wind energy sector based on 20-30 qualitative expert interviews per region. The contribution of the project is hence threefold: First, it contributes to transition research by clarifying the underlying processes of negotiation, norming and learning of actors and by adding empirical evidence to a largely conceptual research field. Second, it identifies different paths of regional change that are characterized by their specific combination of restructuration processes and local-global orientation. This will also help to explain why and how regions develop differently within a common institutional, e.g. national, framework. These findings can later be transferred from the wind energy sector to other branches. Third, on the basis of this, the project simultaneously enhances the degree to which transition processes can be influenced: Political instruments can be fine-tuned to better target the critically involved actors and the specificities of the particular regional setup.

In this way, the project will contribute to the current transition research both theoretically and empirically.


Project leader

Prof. Dr. Jannika Mattes

Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
Institute for Social Sciences
26111 Oldenburg

Tel. +49(0) 441 798-4552
E-Mail: jannika.mattes(at)
Room: A6-4-402

Project Researchers