How can sociological perspectives help chart us through the renewable energy transition in Australia?

How can sociological perspectives help chart us through the renewable energy transition in Australia?

Given the recent announcements of job cuts across our sector, it feels jarring to be considering how best to grow a research theme (to date somewhat neglected) around sociological perspectives for navigating the transition to renewables and the ‘future grid’. The irony is not lost on me that as a member of the academic precariat, my prospective job security is tied up with this question. The aim of this workshop style seminar is for me to outline some critical gaps and questions about the renewable energy transition unfolding in the Australian context and to hear your views about what I’m missing. I’ll outline the key trends oft-cited by industry insiders – decarbonisation, digitisation, decentralisation and (occasionally) democratisation, and sketch out what theories and methodologies social scientists have drawn on to understand these. In a sector dominated by engineers and economists, there are increasingly vocal calls to “better understand consumers”. While these calls typically come from an instrumentalist view of what the social sciences can contribute, it signals to those of us working in this space that there are at least glimpses of potentially fruitful collaboration (with some groups). It is off the back of these calls that we have been able to put up several projects within the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program at ANU that have a “social” component. Successful energy social research in Australia (for example Monash University’s Emerging Technology Research Lab) have managed to obtain industry funding while actively contributing to academic debates. While this pathway has obvious challenges, as a sociologist working within a technical research program, this is the only route I see in front of us. My hope is we can draw on ongoing debates in sociology (and other disciplines) to shape our emerging research agenda. 


About the presenter:

Hedda Ransan-Cooper leads the social science program within the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program (BSGIP). She is working with colleagues from a range of disciplines and beyond the academy to better understand and facilitate the transition to a more sustainable electricity grid. Dr Ransan-Cooper's research has covered various dimensions of sustainability transitions, primarily in the areas of migration and energy change, focusing on environmental migration in the Philippines and the politics of coal seam gas in regional Australia. Dr Ransan-Cooper is passionate about the practice of doing transdiciplinary research for solving policy challenges. 

This seminar will be held via Zoom
Meeting ID: 957 3361 0049
Password: 566663

Date & time

Mon 28 Sep 2020, 1–2pm




Dr Hedda Ransan-Cooper


School of Sociology


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