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Socio-economic energy research

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Research in the energy field is not restricted to technologies and the advancement of "hardware" but also includes the socio-economic and policy oriented aspects of the energy system. The most obvious examples of socio-economic research in the energy field include investigations into the main economic and social issues related to energy technologies, future planning, the acceptability and implementation of new technologies as well their environmental sustainability.

This type of research addresses questions such as:

  • What will the energy system look like in 2050?
  • What are the external costs of different energy technologies?
  • What are the main risks for Europe's energy supply security?
  • What are the barriers to more efficient behaviour from energy end users?

The results of this research are highly relevant because they help forming the basis of policy developments.

Socio-economic energy research has been supported by the EU for decades and is one of the priorities of the Energy Theme of the current Framework Programme (FP7, 2007-2013). Since 2002 more than 30 socio-economic related energy projects have been funded by the energy research part of the Framework Programmes with more than EUR 40 Million. However, the Energy Theme is not alone in addressing energy related socio-economic research: many of the other FP7 Themes covering energy issues (e.g. the Transport Theme, the Environment Theme or the Agriculture Theme as well as the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities Theme include a focus on socio-economic aspects of energy.

Socio-economic research is essential for planning and shaping the transition to a low-carbon energy system. That is why the Commission initiated, in the framework of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), an action on European energy infrastructure networks and systems transition planning. It will be useful in the development of tools and models for European-level future planning in areas such as smart, bi-directional electricity grids, CO2 transport and storage and hydrogen distribution. It therefore helps optimise and harmonise the development of low carbon integrated energy systems across the EU and its neighbouring countries.

Current funding opportunities

For more information on current open topics in the area of socio-economic research in the FP7 energy theme please click here.


Research projects


Results of EU funded research projects in the area of socio-economic energy research coun be found


Examples of successful projects

HOP! – Macro-economic impact of High Oil Prices

The project was aimed at evaluating the direct and indirect impacts of temporary and permanent increase in oil price on the European economy as a whole, with special reference to impacts on the energy sector, transport sector and employment. Different scenarios were developed and quantified by linking the output of the ASTRA and POLES models.

The overall conclusion of the project is that high oil prices have a significant economic impact in the short-term and may have a limited impact in the medium- and long-term. In general the impact on employment is more severe than on GDP. The effects on investments are critical to shape the final macroeconomic outcome. At first a high oil price will have a negative effect due to increases in costs in many areas of the economy, but this can be offset by the boost of investment induced by the search for alternatives to fossil fuels and for efficiency technologies. Overall, the oil scarcity and oil price shocks can have significant negative impacts on the EU – but they need not, if the EU adequately prepares itself.

The project was carried out by a consortium of three partners. It ran for three years and received an EU funding of EUR 200 000.

For more information please see the project's website.


REACCESS - Risk of Energy Availability: Common Corridors for Europe Supply Security

Electricity production capacity by fuel in the EU

According to energy outlooks, about 70% of European energy needs in 2030 will be met by primary (and non-renewable) sources originating from foreign areas, some of which are very remote and geopolitically unstable. The main goal of the project is to build tools suitable for EU27 energy import scenario analyses, able to take into account at the same time the technical, economical and environmental aspects of the main energy corridors, for all energy commodities and infrastructures.

The main outputs of the REACCESS project will be a new modelling tool as well exemplary scenarios and variants for EU27 and the other main supply demand regions. In addition the inter-relationships between external energy supply strategies and EU27 or Member States policies for energy management will be investigated and assessed.

In the longer term, the project will help both the European Commission as well as Member States to quantitatively assess the effect of various energy import policies/measures in connection with European and national policies to manage their energy market, for example with regard to renewables, efficiency, primary demand management (behavioural change, carbon or extra other tax).

The project runs for three years, until the end of 2010, and receives an EU contribution of around EUR 3 million. It brings together 14 partners from 10 countries including Norway, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

For more information please see the project's website.