Political Science — International Energy and Resource Governance, Sustainability and Transitions

Group leader
Political Science: International Energy and Resource Governance Sustainability Transitions
Specific themes and goals

Renewable energies first gained significant traction during the oil crises of the 1970s. In the decades that followed, interest in renewables waxed and waned, usually contingent on geopolitical necessity. However, as global warming gained prominence, renewables became a lasting component of energy security. Just as interest in renewables has evolved, so has our understanding of the implications of renewables for international politics. Initially, many observers believed that renewable energies would end energy geopolitics. About a decade ago, however, scholars began systematically exploring how renewables might affect interstate relations. The conclusion is that, just as past energy transitions had profound effects on politics, so will the transition to renewables. Smith Stegen and colleagues examine renewables from two vantage points: the transition itself and the geopolitical implications. Some of the key questions include: “What are the obstacles to the renewable energy transition?” and “How will the transition affect interstate relations?”

Highlights and impact
  • Constructor University’s contribution to new research field and today’s leaders — The first-ever workshop featuring the “geopolitics of renewable energies” was co-hosted by Constructor University (represented by Smith Stegen) and the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study in 2011. Interest in the workshop’s topics quickly expanded, and many participants are now leaders in the field, producing many of the seminal publications.
  • International Renewable Energy Agency — In 2018-2019, IRENA recognized the significance of the new field and convened the “Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation”, comprising member state dignitaries such as ministers and former heads of state. The Commission was supported by an international team of experts, and the German Foreign Ministry appointed Smith Stegen as one of Germany’s three experts.
  • The Economist magazine — The Economist magazine published a special report in 2018 on energy geopolitics and “The New Power Superpowers”, which mentioned the work of Smith Stegen.
  • Scientific Impact — A bibliometric analysis of all researchers at Constructor University revealed that the scientific impact—the mean normalized citation score—of Smith Stegen was 2.55. This was the top score for all female researchers and number six overall. It was also above the average of the 10 other benchmarked universities and research institutions.
Group composition & projects/funding

Recent and ongoing primary and secondary supervision of PhD projects include:

  • Emerging Powers, Climate Change, and the Global Order: Analyzing the National Role Conceptions of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (Expected Completion: 2022).
  • En route to sustainable transport? Critical reflections on the narratives and actor constellations in the German “Verkehrswende” (Expected Completion: 2023).
  • Assessing the Potential Synergistic Effects of Deep-Sea Mining and a Comparison to Onshore Mining (2021).
Selected publications
  • Richter, I. and Smith Stegen, K. “A choreography of delay: The response of German auto incumbents to environmental policy.” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 45 (2022). 
  • Tomberg, L., Vance, C. and Smith Stegen, K. “The mother of all political problems? On Asylum seekers and elections in Germany.“ European Journal of Political Economy 67 (2021). 
  • Kusznir J. and Smith Stegen, K. “Europe’s New Green Deal’s Hydrogen Strategy and EU Energy Issues”, Baltic Rim Economies Review (2020). 
  • Von Wirth, T., Loorbach, D., Wagner, A., Koretskaya, O., Wade, R., Krupnik, S., Rudek, T., Foulds, C., Adem, C., Akerboom, S., Batel, S., Caspar Rabitz, F., Certoma C., Cherp, A., Chodkowska-Miszczuk, J., Denac, M., Dokupilová, D., Dotterud Leiren, M., Frolova Ignatieva, M., Gabaldón-Estevan, D., Horta, A., Karnøe, P., Lilliestam, J., Markard, J., Mišik, M., Mühlemeier, S., Nemoz, S., Nilsson, M., Osička, J., Papamikrouli, L., Pellizioni, L., Sareen, S., Sarrica, M., Seyfang, G., Smith Stegen, K., Sovacool, B., Telesiene, A., and Zapletalova, V. “100 Social Sciences and Humanities priority research questions for renewable energy in Horizon Europe.” Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS (2020). 
  • De la Esperanza, M., D. Scholten, and K. Smith Stegen, “The multi-speed energy transition in Europe: Opportunities and challenges for EU energy security.” Energy Strategy Reviews 26 (2019).