Indicators of social sustainability for energy regions of the future (SONAH)

Set of social sustainability indicators, oriented at practice needs, and concept for their use in energy strategy processes, regional energy concepts, planning and operation of plants generating renewable energy

Short Description




The sustainable use of technologies depends, beyond economic and ecological aspects, notably on a technology's social component or social compatibility. Therefore, when assessing the sustainability of generating and using renewable energy, this must not be limited to economic and ecological parameters. Social sustainability of a technology to a considerable extent depends on the "social anchoring", expressed by the society's attitude to perceive it as useful and accept it. Especially renewable energy, as it is largely generated at the regional level, makes use of the region's resources and thereby intervenes into the region's structure. 

The following questions remained unanswered so far: How “sustainable” in their social aspects are renewable energies (regarding their way of generation and their regional impact)? What are measurable indicators to describe and monitor their social sustainability? What methodological instruments to choose in order to secure their social compatibility? These questions should be answered and further elaborated taking the example of two "energy regions".

 The main project goals were as follows:

  • Decision makers in administration and plant operators as target groups will be supported in the assessment of social compatibility of strategies, concepts, planning and operating renewable energy plants.
  • The social sustainability of such concepts, planning procedures and running plants shall be made measurable for the first time at the regional level, using a practical and comprehensive method.

The overall goal was to foster, especially at the regional level, the social acceptance of technologies and strategies to generate renewable energy in Austria, and therefore, to contribute to the embedding of innovative technologies into society.

 The project developed a practical set of criteria and indicators of social sustainability (social compatibility) focusing the regional level and elaborated on a concept for the methodological use of this instrument in the target groups' daily work of planning and running renewable energy plants/ establishing energy strategies and concepts. Criteria/indicators and the application of the instrument have been tested successfully throughout  Austria. It is essential that in all project steps there was a clear alignment of instruments and methodological development with the needs of energy regions and selected stakeholders, experienced in the area of renewable energy. This alignment was guaranteed by an intense stakeholder dialogue throughout the project (project duration 2009-2011)

The project has been concluded in February 2011. The main output is the "SONAH criteria catalogue". This tool, together with other user group specific tools will be accessible via Internet from end of Mai 2011 (in German only).

Project Partners

Project management

Dr. Gudrun Lettmayer


Mag.a  Barbara Hammerl

Project or cooperation partner

  • Mag. Jürgen Suschek Berger, DIin Uli Seebacher
    IFZ - Interuniversitäres Forschungszentrum für Technik, Arbeit und Kultur
  • Mag.a Johanna Ehetreiber, DI Christian Luttenberger
    Regionalmanagement Oststeiermark
  • DI Josef Bärnthaler
    Energieagentur Obersteiermark

Contact Address

Dr. Gudrun Lettmayer
Institut für Nachhaltige Techniken und Systeme
Elisabethstrasse 16-18
A-8010 Graz
Tel.: +43 316 876 2415
Fax: +43 316 876 2430