Workshop ‘Energy Systems and Changing Values’

Start date: October 15, 2020
End date: October 17, 2020
Time: 12:00 am - 12:00 am
Location: Delft University of Technology
Energy Systems | Project workshop

Event summary

The online workshop Changing Values and Energy Systems was a three-day event organized on October 15-17, 2020. These three days brought together a wide range of scholars on values in relation to energy systems. In total, 17 proposals prepared by 31 scholars were selected based on an abstract for a paper connected to the workshop's overall theme: Changing Values and Energy Systems.

In the month leading up to the workshop, participants had developed their abstract into a draft paper that they shared with other participants beforehand. After pre-circulating drafts, workshop participants prepared their comments to one of the papers and initiated a discussion during the workshop before opening the floor to the audience.

As a result of the workshop, the organizing team have decided to aim for two special issues; in addition to Science, Technology and Human Values, we also aim for a special issue (or ‘topical collection’ as they call it) in the Journal of Science and Engineering Ethics.

Workshop Description

In many parts of the world, the need for a transition to more sustainable energy systems is felt. It is obvious that the energy transition is a technical and economic process, but it also requires changes in institutions and values. Values that play a role in energy transition include energy efficiency; sustainability and other environmental values; security and reliability; social justice and fairness; autonomy and power; safety; privacy, aesthetics and landscape embedding. These values are not static but change over time; for example because a value may become less or more important. Sustainability was, for example, given less emphasis when the current energy systems were designed compared to the current energy transition. Another value that seems to gain in importance, due to a transition to more decentralized energy generation and the advance of community energy systems, is energy autarky. Another shape that value change can take is the emergence of new values. For example, energy justice and energy democracy have emerged as new values in the last decade in relation to the energy transition.

Addressing value change is particularly important because energy systems have large technological and institutional momentum while they are often socially contested. The technological and institutional momentum implies that these systems are often hard to change; technical infrastructures are usually built for decades; and also institutional rules cannot be changed overnight. This makes it more difficult and costly to deal with value change. At the same time, the socially contested character of many energy technologies makes it not only crucial to properly address values for the ethical acceptability and social acceptance of these systems, but makes it also likely that new values will emerge in public debates about energy technologies. So while value change may be endemic in energy systems, these systems at the same time have characteristics that make it harder to deal with such value change.

Value change in energy systems can be studied at different levels and from different angles, including, but not necessarily limited to, 1) changes in values among energy consumers and the general public, 2) changes in values of energy producers and grid operators, 3) changes in values implied by different energy technologies, 4) changes in values implied by different institutional and organizational arrangements for the production, distribution and consumption of energy, and the relations between these four.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Rafaela Hillerbrand (Professor of Philosophy of Engineering, Technology Assessment, and Science at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) 
  • Martin Petersen (Professor of Philosophy and Bovay Professor of the History and Ethics of Professional Engineering at Texas A&M University)
  • Benjamin Sovacool (Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex)

Call for Papers

We invite contributions to a workshop on Energy systems and changing values to be held from 15 to 17 October 2020 in Delft, The Netherlands. On basis of a selection of the contributions to the workshop, we will compose a special issue of the journal Science, Technology & Human Values. A limited number of travel stipends will be available for graduate students who face financial constraints, but who are willing to participate and whose abstracts are accepted. We especially encourage candidates from underrepresented groups to apply.

Specific topics that could be addressed for the workshop include:

  • How can we conceptually and theoretically understand value change in the energy sector?
  • What are important historical value changes in the energy domain?
  • What methods are available for describing and analyzing value change in the energy domain?
  • What are the implications of value change for the design and governance of energy systems?
  • How are we to interpret the emergence of new values like energy justice and energy democracy?
  • What values are implied by different energy technologies? How do (changing) values play out in the design of different energy technologies?
  • How do values and institutional structures mutually shape each other in the energy sector?
  • Do value changes in the energy sector lead to new value tensions and what are possible ways of dealing with such value tensions?

But other questions that fit the general theme are welcome as well.

Abstract & Papers Submissions

People interested in contributing to the workshop are requested to submit a 300-word  abstract to before 1 June 2020. You will be notified before 1 July whether you are selected for inclusion in the workshop. We expect to be able to select around 15 papers.

Selected authors are requested to send a draft paper of 3000 to 5000 words before 1 September 2020. At the workshop, we will discuss the draft papers of the various contributors. After the workshop, we will invite a selection of the contributions for a special issue of Science, Technology & Human Values.

Practical Information

The workshop will take place at the campus of Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. The first session will start at 10:00 AM on Thursday 15 October 2020, and an official part of the workshop will conclude around 15:00 PM on Saturday 17 October 2020.  There is no registration fee. Information about the workshop venue, hotel bookings and other practical questions will be published soon.