Social innovation: next steps in the energy transition

Conference 18-19 Nov 2021

On 18-19 November 2021, the platform on Social Innovation in the Energy Transition at Delft University of Technology organized its second symposium: "Social innovation: next steps in the energy transition”.  

The sustainable energy transition has a radical - even disruptive - impact on the functioning of energy systems. Besides technological change, it causes and requires major social, behavioural, organisational, and institutional change. The transition comes with many novelties, yet the disruptive impact is not entirely clear. Relevant issues in this regard include new energy sources, new technologies, new roles for producers, grid operators, consumers and citizens, new energy services, new business models, smart grids, novel governance arrangements and policies, but also new concerns and questions regarding justice and inclusiveness.  

To design and implement systems that are acceptable from both a technical and societal perspective, a thorough understanding of socio-technical energy systems is required. This includes creating specific knowledge on the relation between the technical and social elements of energy systems and asks for social innovation (next to technical innovation). Here, the concept of social innovation - new ideas that work in meeting social goals (Mulgan, 2007) - is contextualised in the domain of sustainable energy transitions. More specifically, it can also be understood as, “Innovations that are social in their means and contribute to the low carbon energy transition, civic empowerment and social goals on the general wellbeing of communities” (Hoppe & De Vries, 2019).  

During this conference, the main question was how social innovation and technology can influence the sustainable transition or energy systems, and how technology and social innovation may mutually influence one another.


This conference was online and open to a wide audience. We invited experts, practitioners, and scientists from all over the world to share their research findings, government plans and (industrial) developments in the field of social innovation and the energy transition and engage in lively debates. Topics addressed during the conference were: