Despite citizen aspirations to decarbonise society, actions that decarbonise in just ways face structural limits. Nascent research frames the failure to accelerate deep decarbonisation as a crisis of accountability. Lack of accountability in digitalising energy infrastructure can exacerbate social exclusion and risks inequitable extraction and use of data.

ROLES (Responsive Organising for Low Emission Societies) aims to identify how European city-regions can accelerate decarbonisation of energy systems through digitalisation of energy infrastructure in ways that create societal benefits. From December 2020 to November 2023, their team of ten researchers is undertaking engaged study in the three cities where they live and work, to identify how one can enable socially inclusive digitisation of energy transition technologies in diverse contexts.

ROLES develops strategies for responsive organising of citizen agency to tackle such accountability crises through customisable pathways in city-regions. It examines digitalisation of energy infrastructure in three mid-sized (population 100,000-300,000) European city-regions. 

Impact and Outreach

Phase I identifies climate-friendly and pro-poor pathways to digitalise energy infrastructure for electric mobility hubs in Bergen, solar energy neighbourhoods in Brighton, and smart energy monitoring in Trento. Using expert interviews with government, business, civil society, and marginalised groups, and multi-sited structured interviews with laypersons, it co-produces in-depth knowledge about digitalisation needs and initiatives in each city-region. This includes policy mixes and citizens’ modes of engagement and coping strategies during digitalisation of three different energy infrastructures. 

Phase II identifies constraining and enabling conditions for rapid diffusion of the identified DDD pathways. To understand what institutional factors shape these pathways, ROLES will involve multi-stakeholders at regional public events to deliberate on how to accelerate DDD. We will use power cube analysis to identify political economic power dynamics for each pathway. 

Phase III delivers a stakeholder toolkit and scientific outputs on responsive organising to accelerate DDD pathways for diverse energy systems. Responsive organising constitutes customised strategies to channel citizen agency into diffusing policies and actions that enable DDD pathways. Scientific outputs will discuss these dynamics in and across sectoral cases and city-regions.

Further Information

The project brings together partners in three countries:

  • The University of Bergen and University of Stavanger in Norway, where the project team focuses on smart mobility transitions in Bergen.
  • The University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, where the project team focuses on solar neighbourhood transitions in Brighton.
  • Eurac Research in Italy, where the project team focuses on smart meter transitions in Trento.

Find out more about ROLES