Age and Knowledge As Challenging Factors for the Energy Transition in Germany

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: Booth 54
Oral Presentation
Patricia GRAF , Chair for Economic and Industrial Sociology, BTU Cottbus, Cottbus, Germany
Franziska BLAZEJEWSKI , Chair for Economic and Industrial Sociology, BTU Cottbus, Cottbus, Germany
Heike JACOBSEN , Brandenburg University, Germany
The German federal policy for phasing out nuclear power and supporting a shift to renewable energies exerts a strong influence on energy supplying companies. They are forced to readapt their business strategies fundamentally. This is a challenging task as German energy suppliers are traditionally very stable and only step by step reorganizing companies. This stability is reflected e.g. in an outstandingly long duration of employment contracts, leading to a high average age. Thus, companies need to rearrange their business by mainly relying on personnel that embodies traditional knowledge and orientations. Furthermore, the recruitment of new, well trained personnel is limited and it is particularly difficult as it is not quite clear what fields of knowledge and which qualifications will be required in the future. The paper explores how energy supplying companies try to find their way into a more sustainable and ecofriendly future of energy supply and use under the given conditions of an aging workforce and predominant conventional orientations towards stability and security instead of innovation and flexibility. Adopting the neo-institutional concept of legitimacy we investigate which requests for radical or incremental changes are recognized by people in the management of energy companies and which symbolic and cultural resources they deploy to legitimate (unpopular) decisions that affect groups of employees. The main question is, how the required changes are processed through the existing organization and how employment structures and relationships as well as work organization and qualifications become reorganized. Our qualitative data show, that employees become grouped into newly defined categories of those that are seen as being part of the “future” of the company and those that represent the “traditional” identity of energy suppliers as conservative realms of primary sector stability and security – be it in terms of employment or in terms of infrastructure.