Flexible electrical grids II: DC Socio-Economics

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Niche readiness and market diffusion of DC technologies

The Project

Direct current (DC) technologies have a high potential for energy system transformation. There are historical and technological reasons why it has not been used sufficiently so far. The field of DC technologies differs greatly in terms of technology readiness level (TRL) and thus market maturity. The use of DC technologies varies not only in technological maturity, but also depends on the socio-technical conditions of their embedding. For example, use and implementation are strongly country-specific. So far it is largely unclear what socio-economic conditions need to be in place not only to increase their maturity but also to support and accelerate their market diffusion. This is where the DC Socio-Economics project comes in.

The overarching research question of the project is: Which DC technologies fit into which socio-spatial contexts because they are economically meaningful and socially embeddable, and which factors determine their emergence, their development in niches and their market diffusion towards far-reaching transformation processes? The project aims at the development of a novel integrative interdisciplinary overall model for the determination of Niche Readiness Levels (NRL) of DC technologies and a multidimensional analysis approach for the interaction of technology and Niche Readiness in niches.

Contribution of the Institute

The Institute of Urban Design investigates the spatial planning aspects of the use of DC technologies. In a higher level, building and neighbourhood typologies are examined for their usability as spatial niches for the embedding of DC technology. The typologies are to be examined with regard to their transformability on the basis of their urban morphological characteristics, their functional usage structure and their technical-infrastructural embedding and tested in designs. Furthermore, the decisions in the planning process of building services engineering are examined with regard to the conditions for direct current applications. The findings supplement the overall model with the spatial planning component and thus make an active contribution to the research and dissemination of direct current networks.

Period of eligibility

May 2020 to April 2025


  • BMBF


  • Chair of Technology and Society, RWTH Aachen University (Project Management)
  • Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior, RWTH Aachen
  • Institute for Industrial Engineering, RWTH Aachen University
  • Institute and Chair of Landscape Architecture, RWTH Aachen
  • Chair of Text Linguistics and Technical Communication, HCIC, RWTH Aachen University