Published April 30, 2022 | Version v1
Working paper Open

Sustainable digitalization of a decentralized energy transition

  • 1. Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW)
  • 2. ECOLOG-Institute for Social-Ecological Research and Education


This working paper deals with the sustainable digitalization of a decentralized energy transition and the effects on technical processes, business models and participation processes. It aims to present the current state of research and to shed more light on relevant aspects from a sustainability perspective. Depending on the actor and implementation, the use of digitalization pursues different goals such as reducing complexity, increasing efficiency or digital participation. Depending on the primary goal, the use of certain digital technologies, tools and methods makes sense at different points in the energy system. For example, existing processes in the energy industry are digitalized and optimized, business models are further developed or newly developed through the use of digitalization, and digital tools are used in energy transition processes. In addition to business interests, the motivation for this is often environmental (e. g. more efficiency or sufficiency) or social (e. g. more participation and transparency). However, from a sustainability perspective, the effects are diverse and often not yet fully researched. For example, the use of energy and resources through digitalization is a relevant variable for assessing the environmental life cycle, but the question of resilience and vulnerability through the linking of digital and electrical infrastructures is also important for assessing the use of digitalization. With regard to social aspects such as co-determination, transparency, diversity of actors and participation, positive and negative trends can currently be observed. Here in some use cases, digitalization creates added value. However, there is also a risk of unintentional lack of transparency or exclusivity.


The working paper is also available in German.