Social sciences and humanities to accelerate the energy transition

22 January 2019 - 09:30 - 15:45

Energy policies cannot fulfil their maximum potential if the knowledge stemming from social sciences and humanities research is not factored into the decision-making process. Citizens should be at the core of all policies – including those to do with energy. This conference will underline how crucial social data is to accelerating the decarbonisation of our economy and making a real dent in climate change. It will also present concrete recommendations on how to advance and better design future European energy policies in the context of the upcoming research and innovation framework; Horizon Europe. 
The event is organised as part of the SHAPE ENERGY H2020 EU-funded project. It aims at generating new knowledge, support evidence-based policymaking, produce interdisciplinary solutions and develop Europe’s expertise in using and applying available research into the energy transition decision-making process.


After 20 years of negotiations, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement to limit global warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial level by the end of the century. The focus now moves to design and implementation, and success will depend on the support and contribution of all – including industries, member-states, regions, cities and citizens.



Welcome and registration of participants


Integrating the human and social dimension into energy systems

While social science and humanities’ (SSH) research has played less of a role to date in shaping European energy policy than Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), understanding the human and social implications of energy systems – such as behaviour and consumption patterns - play a critical role in ensuring the best possible social acceptability and impact. Learning, experience and research demonstrates that mainstreaming these disciplines into energy policies, and ensuring a citizen focus, are crucial components to accelerating the decarbonisation of our economy and tackling climate change. The SHAPE ENERGY project, through its multi-stakeholder undertakings and wide geographical scope, has worked to generate new knowledge, support evidence-based policymaking, produce interdisciplinary solutions and develop Europe’s expertise in using and applying available research into the energy transition decision-making process to fill current gaps and challenges.

Questions include:

  • What is the business case for making better use of social sciences and humanities research for the energy transition?
  • What do the research and evidence tell us about integrating social sciences and humanities into the designing process of future policies?
  • What are the outcomes from SHAPE ENERGY and how can they be translated into recommendations for Horizon Europe?

Cities as catalysts for transformation in the energy transition

Cities account for about 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is clear, therefore, that cities are ideal for convening multiple actors and brokering experimental transformative measures that can successfully engage society in a low-carbon economy. This can lead to improving the understanding of environmental behaviours which can help tackle emissions from intensive sectors such as transportation and buildings. For systemic change to take place, all sectors must be involved and existing urban models, including governance, will need to be adaptive and flexible. Mainstreaming research into policy thinking and development can enable a far more comprehensive dialogue between researchers, policy workers and citizens, as well as produce vital insights for consumption and behavioural patterns to change.

Questions include:

  • How can a more collaborative approach ensure we address real world questions, accelerate decarbonisation, and deliver real impact in cities and beyond?
  • How can social sciences and humanities research in energy intensive sectors such as transportation and construction help influence consumption patterns?
  • How can social sciences and humanities research influence decision-making and accelerate energy transition in cities?

Financing research for innovative leadership

Research and innovation are key drivers of a knowledge-based society, improving productivity and economic growth, including new job opportunities. Europe spent close to €80 billion on the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework Programme. Despite a future cut in the EU budget following Brexit, research spending is expected to increase by about one fifth for Horizon Europe. This increase is expected to create 420.000 jobs by 2040 according to the European Commission. To address the current climate crisis and boost Europe’s competitiveness, the EU must use its funding wisely to understand the implications of social sciences and humanities research in its agenda to accelerate action on climate change. With additional funding directed to high-quality proposals involving social sciences and humanities, Europe’s leadership in climate action and the energy transition could be achieved.

Questions include:

  • How should the budget for future energy research reinforce Europe’s long-term strategy to reach its climate and energy ambition?
  • How can we better align research, funding and policies for greater impact?
  • What should the next EU mandate do to ensure that the link between budget and research is better aligned with climate change action, which is one of the major concern of citizens?

Moderated by Dharmendra Kanani, Director of Insights at Friends of Europe


End of conference

Afternoon sessions are dedicated to exchange views and ideas between consortium members, social sciences and humanities practitioners and other invited guests



Learning from other H2020 projects

A number of H2020 funded projects coming from across Europe and representing various energy-related topics including PROSEU and the EU Energy Poverty Observatory among others will share their journeys and key takeaways. This will allow for an interactive exchange where each individual project will have the opportunity to present and answer questions from the audience, enabling all H2020 projects to learn from each other.    

PROSEU — Prosumers for the energy union, seeking to mainstream active participation of citizens in the energy transition
EU Energy Poverty Observatory — Understanding Energy Poverty in Europe
ENERGISE — European Network for Research, Good Practice and Innovation for Sustainable Energy          


Learning from SHAPE ENERGY – Sectoral approach

Over tea and coffee, 30 minute short conversations with members of the SHAPE ENERGY consortium run in parallel on issues that matter to them, to gain expertise from this resourceful project and network.

DuneWorks (DW) — Storytelling: A means towards inclusiveness
Energy Cities (ECIT) — Cities acting as activators for energy transition
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) — Interdisciplinary research – challenges and solutions
Politecnico di Torino (POLITO) — SSH-STEM integration in action: insights from four energy Sandpits


Closing remarks and end of conference

Kurt Vandenberghe — European Commission Director for Climate Action and Resource Efficency at Directorate-General for Research and Innovation


Raphaël Danglade, Programme Executive
t.: +32 2 893 98 10

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Event starts
22 January