The clean-energy transition doesn’t just pose technological and scientific challenges; it also requires a better understanding of cross-cutting issues related to socioeconomic, gender, sociocultural, and socio-political issues. Addressing these issues will help to devise more effective ways of involving citizens and to better understand energy-related views and attitudes, ultimately leading to greater social acceptability as well as more durable governance arrangements and socioeconomic benefits.
In 2018, proposals must be submitted under the theme “Social innovation in the energy sector”, in 2019 under the theme “Challenges facing carbon-intensive regions” and in 2020 under the theme “Energy citizenship”. They have to address one or several of the questions listed under the respective sub-topics below. All proposals have to adopt a comparative perspective, with case studies or data from at least three European Union Member States or Associated Countries.
Energy citizenship: SSH research offers many insights into the conditions favouring civic engagement, active participation and interaction with institutional or corporate actors. Such “energy citizenship” is not limited to early technology adopters or environmental activists, and it goes beyond (but also encompasses) mere “consumer involvement”. Rather than using SSH research as an instrument to achieve particular outcomes (e.g., social acceptance) it can help to understand in what kind of environments collaborative goal setting and commitment can take place, how relevant decisions are made and any trade-offs between competing goals are addressed. This has important implications for EU energy policymaking. Proposals are expected to examine the factors affecting the emergence and effectiveness of energy citizenship and its potential for achieving the decarbonisation of the energy system. This should include factors such as digitalisation, social media, social group dynamics (e.g. creating trust, finding shared goals), societal factors (e.g. institutional, corporate or legal environment), demographics and social justice. It should result in practical recommendations for policy-makers. Specifically, proposals are expected to focus on one or several of the following questions:
- Is energy citizenship more likely to emerge locally, or at regional, national or supranational levels? For what reasons?
- What is the relative importance of processes internal to relevant social groups (e.g., creating trust and connection, finding shared goals and solutions, building coalitions), as opposed to external environmental variables (e.g., relative openness of institutional or corporate environments, availability of sympathetic interlocutors, access to financial or other sources of support, legal or other obstacles)?
- What impact does the digitisation of the energy system and the proliferation of social media have on the emergence and consolidation of energy citizenship?
- Under what conditions is energy citizenship conducive to reaching broader policy goals, particularly the decarbonisation of the energy system, and under what conditions does it have the opposite effect?
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
The proposed research will:
- provide a better understanding of socioeconomic, gender, sociocultural, and socio-political factors and their interrelations with technological, regulatory, and investment-related aspects, in support of the goals of the Energy Union and particularly its research and innovation pillar;
- Social innovation in the energy sector (2018): yield practical recommendations for using the potential of social innovation to further the goals of the Energy Union, namely, to make Europe’s energy system more secure, sustainable, competitive, and affordable for Europe’s citizens;
- Challenges facing carbon-intensive regions (2019): yield practical recommendations for addressing the challenges of the clean-energy transition for Europe’s coal and carbon-intensive regions, including socioeconomic and political ones.
- Energy citizenship (2020): based on a better understanding of socio-economic, gender, socio-cultural, and socio-political factors, their interrelations with technological, regulatory, and investment aspects, yield practical recommendations for harnessing energy citizenship to achieve the energy and decarbonisation goals in the European Union and Associated Countries.
 As expressed in the “Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation” Communication (COM  763)
 Social innovations are defined as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words they are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act. See, Empowering people, driving change, Bureau of European Advisers (BEPA), Brussels (2011), p. 33.
Click here for more information about LC-SC3 calls.