The transition to a degrowth society should consider the notion, type and purpose of an electricity supply system and comprehend its interrelations within current capitalist systems. With the beginning of the energy transition in 2011, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions gradually decoupled from economic growth, by 2014 worldwide economic growth occurred alongside the reduction of energy-related GHG emissions i.e. the growing adoption of renewable energy (RE). According to the rationality of the current economy, Germany’s energy transition has proven to be successful. Achieving economic growth while phasing out nuclear power and slowly divesting from fossil fuels is applauded by environmentalists, economists and politicians worldwide. The stagnation of economic growth, if RE is adopted at a large scale, provided – for the last decades – the key argument of conservative governments to oppose and/or delay the phase out of conventional fuels. This study uses heterodox economic theory to explain why RE is substantially adopted in Germany, and discusses the paradox associated with the notion of success. It illustrates that measuring the success of a non-conventional innovative technology based on its correlation with economic growth, contradicts the intellectual, political and systemic changes the governance system has undergone by adopting RE. We ask how can we undergo a transition to a low-carbon society, let alone the transition to degrowth, if we still measure success based on economic growth? To change the underlying concepts of economic valuations in our social market economy, this study stresses the need to frame the intention of innovation and R&D in a non-profit approach.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „The need to reframe the notion of success of innovative technologies in capitalist systems “ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.