Flexible Elektrische Netze II


DC-Socio-Economic: Niche Readiness and Market Diffusion of DC Technologies

FEN II Copyright: pixabay

In this second project phase, socio-economic factors and other mechanisms are considered that are relevant for the emergence of niche applications and in which suitable DC technologies for electrical grids can be established in an economically viable and socially embeddable manner.  In this context, it will be particularly examined how a market diffusion of such technologies can emerge and lead to far-reaching transformation processes.



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The Project

The energy transition poses one of the largest social challenges of today due to sustainable forms of energy generation, distribution and use. The extent of this challenge is determined by the change from centralized to decentralized energy production, the diversification and multimodality of storage, and the increasing sector coupling through electrification and digitalization. Direct current (DC) technologies have a high potential and synergy effects with the energy transition. The advantages of DC grids compared to existing alternating current or rotating current grids are mainly the facilitation of load flow control, the support of decentralized grid structures and the minimization of grid complexity. The field of DC technologies differs with respect to the technological maturity of DC technologies in connection with the classifications according to the "Technology Readiness Level" (TRL) and thus ultimately their market maturity. The use of DC technologies varies not only in technological maturity but also depending on the socio-technical conditions of their application. For example, the use and implementation are strongly region and country dependent. In particular, current research focuses on the socio-economic conditions that must be met in order to not only increase their maturity, but also to support and accelerate their market diffusion.

Research Question

The overarching research question of the project is: Which DC technologies fit into which socio-spatial contexts because they make economic sense and are socially embeddable, and which factors determine their emergence, their development in niches and their market diffusion towards far-reaching transformation processes? The project examines this question using the examples of the FEN Use Cases DC Commercial Building and DC Quartier. The supply of smaller spaces is an essential part of the implementation of the German energy transition. The focus is on the conditions for the successful establishment of DC technologies (and combinations of them) as well as on supporting and inhibiting factors of their market introduction and dissemination.

  FEN Copyright: FEN

Aim of the Project

The main goal is to develop a novel integrative interdisciplinary overall model for the determination of Niche Readiness Levels (NRL) of DC technologies as well as a multidimensional analysis approach for the interaction of technology and Niche Readiness in niches and subsequent market diffusion dynamics. The approach uses heuristically the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) and independently develops an overall model for the field of a DC technology-based energy system transformation on the basis of conceptual and empirical work.

Further information can be found on the FENaachen.net project website.


Contribution of the Institute

The Chair of Landscape Architecture at RWTH Aachen University is investigating the open-space planning implications of the use of DC niche development processes. Starting from the thesis that open space as dynamic urban space can play an important role in the innovation process. This requires incentives on the level of the innovation landscape in order to enable the formation of niches and their open space planning dimension. On this basis, "use cases" will be defined and empirically elaborated to enable an attempt to develop the role of "open space as an innovator" through theory-building. In addition, the collection of data will be further developed through participatory workshops and moderated discussions in cooperation with the key actors. The aim is to apply the "use cases" in DC buildings and DC neighbourhoods and to define them from an open-space planning perspective. The findings supplement the overall model with the open-space planning component to make an active contribution to the research and dissemination of DC networks.

Funding period

May 2020 bis April 2025

Cooperation and Funding

The research campus "Flexible Electrical Networks" (FEN) at RWTH Aachen University is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and deals with the research questions of the project, which aim at a novel, integrative and interdisciplinary comprehensive model to determine "Niche Readiness Levels" (NRL) of DC technologies. Therefor the interaction of technology and niches will be examined using a multidimensional analysis approach. For this purpose, several chairs and institutes of the RWTH as well as many renowned partners from industry will be funded within the research project from 2020 to 2025.