KWI – Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Kulturwissenschaftliches Intitut Essen, KWI)

Project Virtual Institute (VI): Mentalities and Patterns of Behaviour Concerning the Energy Transition in North Rhine-Westfalia

Coordination: Karin Schürmann (Forschungszentrum Jülich)
Principal investigators: Dr. Steven Engler and Prof. Claus Leggewie

Cooperating Partner: Forschungszentrum Jülich, Bochum University of Applied Sciences, RWTH Aachen University, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy
Funded by: Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft und Forschung (MIWF); In cooperation with the Cluster EnergieForschung.NRW
Duration: 03/2015 - 05/2017

The project takes up a widespread phenomenon that also applies to North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW): People’s actual everyday behaviour with regard to resource- and energy-use often deviates from their attitudes concerning environmental and climate protection as well as energy consumption (attitude-behaviour-gap). Above that, potential for saving energy by means of technical innovations might remain unutilised or may even be reversed through the same mechanism. The project aims at pointing out opportunities for political measures to adequately meet this problem. In order to reach this aim, firstly, the status quo of existing mentalities, patterns of behaviour and social practices with relevance for resource- and energy-use in NRW shall be systematically investigated. In a nutshell, the research focuses on ‘sustainable consciousness’ in NRW, a concept which also includes behavioural aspects.

The project is structured into three components or ‘building blocks’, which are closely linked: ‘System Understanding’, ‘Envisioning’ and ‘Transformation’. These components complement each other in their respective perspectives by focussing on different periods of time as regards their research questions:

Component ‘System Understanding’ – Where do we stand?

  • Which mentalities, patterns of behaviour and social practices in the realm of resource- and energy-use can be identified in North Rhine-Westphalia? What kinds of differences specific to milieu or region can be found?
  • Which drivers and barriers exist for the implementation of the energy transition in people’s everyday lives?


While the first component looks into dominant mentalities, patterns of behaviour and social practices in NRW, the second addresses an ‘envisioning’ of the future. This ‘envisioning’ will take the form of a look into a possible future, where the transition of the energy system will already have taken place.

Component ‘Envisioning’ – Where do we want to go?

  • How can a successful transition of the energy system in NRW be imagined with regard to the role that citizens could play in the process?
  • What kind of ‘visions’ about resource- and energy-related mentalities, patterns of behaviour and social practices can be imagined for NRW?


The third component directly follows the ‘envisioning’ and the target knowledge generated in the previous part of the project: Starting from the ‘vision’ of a successful energy transition in NRW this component focusses on the task of identifying possible political measures by which this vision could be realized.

Component ‘Transformation’ – How do we get there?

  • Which measures could motivate resource- and energy-related mentalities, patterns of behaviour and social practices?
  • How could people and organizations in NRW be provided with a heightened sustainable consciousness?