PLAISIR - Planning Innovation: Learning form socially innovative energy projects
Starting point / Motivation
Energy transformation has so far been discussed primarily in an urban context in the light of technical innovation. Social innovation as well as peripheral, rural regions and their specific challenges, which cannot be overcome by technical innovations alone, only play a secondary role in this discourse. This is all the more astonishing since the transformative power of social innovation, especially in the policy field of energy, could be of particular importance with regard to behavioural changes, the dissolution of the boundaries between producer and consumer, and the potential for spatial development.
Contents and Objectives
PLAISIR analyses socially innovative energy projects in structurally peripheral regions and thus addresses the research gap at the interface of social capital-oriented endogenous regional development and resource-oriented energy planning. In the three Austrian case study regions Murau, Hermagor and Südburgenland, good practice of socially innovative energy planning is analysed in the context of spatial peculiarities and energy planning development paths in order to identify region- and project-specific factors of social innovation in energy planning.
PLAISIR investigates the potentials that can be activated by socially innovative processes in energy transformation and regional development. Based on European databases of socially innovative projects, the dimensions of social innovation in the energy sector are worked out. Subsequently, with a view to the three Austrian regions Hermagor, Murau and Südburgenland, the local-specific and generally relevant factors of regional energy transformation will be examined before concrete socially innovative projects in the field of energy in these regions are thoroughly analysed. The overall view thus allows conclusions for a successful regional energy transformation, the promotion of social innovation in the energy sector and Austrian regional development in general, as well as specific scaling potentials for social innovation.
One of the central findings is that social innovation is an integral part of regional energy projects, but is rarely recognised, named and promoted as such. This is particularly important as social innovation creates ownership of the energy system. Path dependencies shape the development of social innovations and the regional energy transition ("context matters"), but energy system transformation alone does not solve the planning problems of rural regions. The openness of regional development instruments creates niches for social innovation, but the complexity of political and technical systems means that intermediaries influence networks and knowledge transfer and can play a decisive role in shaping the energy transition path. Furthermore, social innovation establishes a link between regional and global development goals.
Prospects / Suggestions for future research
Future research is necessary to understand the interaction of social innovations and new path development as well as further possibilities, potentials and challenges in the integration of new actor groups. In particular, the role of intermediary actors in the initiation of bottom-linked initiatives for transition seems to be advantageous and at the same time underexposed.
ZSI - Centre for Social Innovation
Project or cooperation partners
Centre of Regional Science, Department of Spatial Planning, Vienna University of Technology