Social innovations in the energy sector such as renewable energy communities, energy aggregators and crowdfunding projects have the potential to play an important role in the energy transition and in reaching the goals of the European Green Deal.
Social innovations are one key instrument to increase energy democracy, citizen participation and inclusion in the energy transition. In order to support social innovations in the energy sector, governments and authorities need to be able to assess their benefits properly. In this regard, easy-to-understand empirical data is crucial in the policy process, to reach all important stakeholders, decision-makers as well as the general public.
This paper and the toolkit presented seek to increase the attention given to alternative approaches for enhancing the energy transition by providing stakeholders in the policy process a tool to highlight the multiple benefits of social innovations, and to increase knowledge and best practice exchange within and across countries.
Based on the work of various empirical studies and impact assessments of social innovation in the energy sector, this paper presents a toolkit in the form of a taxonomy for measuring the impacts of social innovations. Furthermore, to make initial use of the taxonomy, case study partners from the SocialRES project were asked to fill out the taxonomy developed as part of this paper to highlight some of the impacts that the project partners have had and to further present empirical evidence of the impacts of social innovations.
Applying the taxonomy to the cases illustrates how social innovations in the energy sector can be beneficial to the local environment, economy and society – replicating results of earlier studies on the effects of social innovations. Moreover, it shows that not all items of the taxonomy are applicable to all levels and cases but rather than depending on the scope of the analysis, different items can play a role hereby.