Research line 4

Energy Systems

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To apply the developing theory of value change to empirical cases in the realm of energy systems (project objective 4); to study potential design strategies for better dealing with value change in the domain of energy systems (project objective 5).

How to Deal with Value Change in Energy Systems?

Energy systems are sociotechnical systems; they are typically not designed by one designer and evolve over time. Still they are shaped by values and sociotechnical visions. Many of our current energy systems were designed at a time when sustainability was a less important value than currently. In many countries, the need for an energy transition to more sustainable energy systems is felt. It is obvious that the energy transition is a technical and economic transition, but it also requires changes in institutions and values.

Various kinds of energy systems have been studied from the perspective of value sensitive design, including offshore energy parks, smart grids, nuclear energy, shale gas and biofuels. These and other studies have revealed a large range of values that play a role, or should play a role in the design of energy systems including energy efficiency; sustainability and other environmental values; security and reliability; social justice and fairness; autonomy and power; safety; privacy, aesthetics and landscape embedding. Although these studies suggest that values are changing over time, the topic of value change and how to address it in the technical and institutional design of energy systems has not yet been systematically addressed.

Addressing value change is particularly important for the case of energy systems because these 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.


Joost Alleblas, M.Sc.

Joost Alleblas, M.Sc.

PhD Candidate

Dr. Behnam Taebi

Dr. Behnam Taebi

Associate Professor

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Anna Melnyk, M.Sc.

Anna Melnyk, M.Sc.

PhD Candidate Tristan de Wildt Tristan de Wildt

Postdoctoral researcher

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Related events

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
Energy Workshop

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.

Related Publications


Melnyk, Anna

An Interpretation of Value Change: A Philosophical Disquisition of Climate Change and Energy Transition Debate Journal Article

In: Science, Technology, & Human Values, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 404-428, 2022.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

van de Poel, Ibo; Taebi, Behnam

Value Change in Energy Systems Journal Article

In: Science, Technology, & Human Values, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 371-379, 2022.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX


de Wildt, Tristan E; Boijmans, Anne R; Chappin, Emile J L; Herder, Paulien M

An ex ante assessment of value conflicts and social acceptance of sustainable heating systems: An agent-based modelling approach Journal Article

In: Energy Policy, vol. 153, 2021, ISSN: 0301-4215.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

Melnyk, A; Singh, A

Constructing an inclusive vision of sustainable transition to decentralised energy: Local practices, knowledge, values and narratives in the case of community-managed grids in rural India Book Chapter

In: Kumar, Ankit; ö, Johanna H; Pols, Auke (Ed.): Dilemmas of Energy Transitions in the Global South, pp. 39–54, Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group, United Kingdom, 1st Edition, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-032-01546-0.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX


de Wildt, Tristan; Chappin, Emile; van de Kaa, Geerten; Herder, Paulien; van de Poel, Ibo

Conflicted by decarbonisation: Five types of conflict at the nexus of capabilities and decentralised energy systems identified with an agent-based model Journal Article

In: Energy Research & Social Science, vol. 64, pp. 101451, 2020, ISSN: 2214-6296.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

van de Poel, Ibo; Taebi, Behnam; de Wildt, Tristan

Accounting for Values in the Development and Design of New Nuclear Reactors Journal Article

In: The Bridge, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 59-65, 2020.

Links | BibTeX