DiTEnS: Discursive Transformation of Energy Systems

Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Studies

The interdisciplinary research initiative at the University of Stuttgart is concerned with the development and application of simulation-based, digital visualization tools (VR/AR) for stakeholder participation in urban energy system transformations. The aim is to support decision-making processes and drive forward the energy transition in existing neighborhoods.

Project Fundation

Carl Zeiss Foundation


Project Duration

April 2023 until March 2029

Challenges in the energy transition

While the energy transition in the electricity sector is already well advanced and the way forward is clearly mapped out, the transformation of the heating sector is proving to be much more difficult. One of the reasons for this is that individual decisions are usually not enough in the heating transition. In order to achieve progress, a large number of actors and decision-makers must be brought together in a coordinated approach, including local authorities, energy suppliers, grid operators, homeowners, tenants, tradespeople, the construction industry and heating technology manufacturers.

Objectives and approach

In a first research project, methods of digitally supported social dialogues on the transformation of urban energy systems are being developed. Necessary changes, such as the installation of solar systems, storage facilities, the effect of energy efficiency measures or noise emissions of certain technologies, are made "tangible" for specific (built-up) districts with the help of suitable VR and AR visualizations and digital twins and will be discussed by different stakeholder groups. The overarching goal is to support opinion-forming, decision-making and coordination of individual steps in the system transformation through simulation-based visualization tools and to address stakeholder positions and conflicts in an interactive dialogue. The aim is to enable all decision-makers and citizens to participate in planning processes based on knowledge. Current developments in municipal heat planning are taken into account. The target values for the various visualized energy scenarios are determined taking into account stakeholder interests, which are collected and analyzed beforehand using social science methods. All energy sources and applications (heat, electricity, mobility) and the corresponding infrastructures are taken into account.

Expected results

As a result of the project, a methodology is available that makes it possible for the stakeholders involved to "experience" energy transition measures in (built-up) urban areas even before its realization by means of VR technologies. Thereby, a consensual solution based on social, technical, economic, ecological and aesthetic criteria is to be developed in a participatory manner.

Research Focus (SP)

In the interdisciplinary research project, the work is divided into three research foci (SP): Energy Science Focus (SPe), Information Technology Focus (SPi) and Social Science Focus (SPs).

ZIRIUS leads the Social Science Focus (SPs). The aim is to design and organize a digitally supported stakeholder dialogue. To this end, analyses regarding the involved stakeholders, their objectives and potential conflicts are first carried out in order to understand the social dynamics surrounding the heating transition in a specific (built-up) district: What are the perspectives and positions of the various stakeholders? What are the relationships between them? Which different points of view and possible conflicts need to be addressed on which topics? What information needs exist with regard to the heating transition? The decision criteria of the respective stakeholders are integrated into the energy system models from the social science data obtained and visually supported participation formats are developed. In the subsequent dialogue process, the energy transition scenarios visualized on the basis of the stakeholder concerns will be discussed and evaluated together with the stakeholders. The visualization tools designed are intended to help develop knowledge about technically, economically, ecologically and socially possible transition paths and to highlight conflicting goals so that concrete options for action can then be jointly developed.

Contact and Project Manager

Project Staff

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