Geschlechtsspezifische Auswirkungen der Energiewende

Gendered Effects of the German Energy Transformation in Südwestfalen (GAES)

Research project funded by the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry for Innovation, Science and Research (funding program: gender research), FoKoS and the Rectorate of the University of Siegen

Coordinator: Dr. Cornelia Fraune

Research Period: 2013-2015

Why? – Energy transformation and gender relations

The aim of the project is to analyze how energy transformations both shape and are shaped by gender relations. In industrialized countries, these transformations are mainly focused on technical aspects of energy supply and energy demand, i.e. a shift to low-emissions fuels as well as the improvement of energy efficiency (Levi 2013; Smil 2010; Weidner and Mez 2008) . Beyond shocks like the Fukushima disaster or Deepwater Horizon, the main reasons for these efforts are both energy security and climate change (Bang and Skodvin 2014; Helm 2007; Rosenbaum 2014) . Against the background of recent gender research that points out the persistence of gender inequality in capitalist democracies (Cooke 2011; Ridgeway 2011)the project bases upon the assumption that energy transformation efforts and gender relations impact each other. Specifically, interdependencies between energy transformations and gender relations were analyzed in the context of energy production, energy consumption and energy policy making

How? – Research concept

A relevant question is how to grasp interdependencies between energy systems and gender regimes. “Most of the adjustments that will need to be made to mitigate climate change strongly affect the composition of output and consumption, not merely an overall magnitude. They will affect how people live and how they perceive their quality of life in myriad and perhaps unpredictable ways” (Nelson 2008, 445) . In consequence, the productive sphere and its intersections with other social sectors, i.e. macroeconomics, seems to be an appropriate starting point for identifying energy-gender relations in energy transformations. Feminist economics has shown that mainstream macroeconomics falls short in analyzing the role of the government and households within national production since business is not the only source of output. Governments provide public services and regulation and households produce “labor services, including physical, technical and social capacities” (Elson 1998, 202) . In consequence, the three sectors are not only connected through market-based flows of goods, services, money and labor but also by right-based obligations and entitlements as well as by value-based communication: “Through the circuit of communication networks, each sector transmits a series of messages which are marked by the organizing dynamic of each sector. The private sector transmits commercial values; the public sector, regulatory values; and the domestic sector, provisioning values” (Elson 1998, 197) . Whereas the elements of the first link are offset against each other in each and every transaction, the other two are not characterized by such a mutual interdependence.

Regarding the original question about energy-gender relations in energy transformations, the discussion of Diane Elson’s conceptual model of the political economy shows that the analysis has to focus on three sectors (government, business, and households) and their mutual interdependencies through markets, rights and values. Thus, a complex series of partial studies is necessary in order to identify the mutual interdependencies between energy systems and gender relations.

What? – Gender relations in the context of energy production, energy consumption and energy policy making

Energy production: women’s and men’s involvement in citizen participation schemes

The research project analyses how the larger social, cultural, and political context fosters and constrains people’s willingness to take part in citizen participation schemes in renewable electricity production (RES-E) by exploring differences in women’s and men’s involvement in ownership, investment sum and decision-making bodies. The aim of the study is to identify causal mechanisms between gender regimes, and to look at women´s and men´s involvement in citizen participation schemes. Therefore a pilot study on women’s and men’s participation in German citizen participation schemes in RES-E has been conducted in order to explore the influence of regulations and norms on the gender ratio. The starting point of this investigation is empirical evidence showing that an overwhelming majority of participants are men.

The results reveal differences between women and men in the average ownership rate of citizen participation schemes, the average investment sum and decision-making bodies. In contrast, findings on gender differences in the amount of capital assets invested per capita are inconclusive. Thus the study gives an indication that beyond individual preferences and investment attitudes, cultural, social and political factors also influence an individual’s agency to participate in RES-E operated by citizens’ associations. These factors include e.g. a significant gender wealth gap or gender segregated labor markets. In general, the research project revealed that approaches to citizen participation schemes in RES-E focusing only on technical and economic aspects fall short. A social science perspective is also needed in order to complement research with knowledge on both social conditions as well as social outcomes of these schemes.

Energy policy-making

There exists empirical evidence on gender differences in individual attitude and preferences concerning energy production technology and environmental concern (McCright and Xiao 2014; Sundström and McCright 2016; Xiao and McCright 2012) . In terms of procedural justice in energy transformations it has to be asked if these gender differences concerning energy production technology and environmental concern are also represented in the decision-making realm. In general, the societal gendered division of labor is also existent within par-liaments (Bäck, Debus, and Müller 2014) . Female legislators are more concerned with “peo-ple” while male legislators are more concerned with “things”. Therefore, female legislators dominate legislative committees on policies like family, education, etc. whereas male legisla-tors dominate legislative committees on policies like finance, defense, etc. (Bolzendahl 2014) . Although, energy policy is still a male-dominated policy field (Bäck, Debus, and Müller 2014), a recent study reveals that gender differences in attitudes and preferences on energy policy are not only evident on the individual level but are also evident in parliament. In roll call voting, female and male legislators voted differently on energy policy laws. Albeit the gendered division of labor, speeches given by female legislators on energy policy were similar to their share in parliament (Fraune 2016) . It has been argued that argued recently, that being more active than their male counterparts is female legislators’ strategy to compensate for their numerical underrepresentation in parliament (Pearson and Dancey 2011) .

Energy consumption

Data on electricity expenditures in Germany display a difference between female and male headed households validated by a KS test. Therefore another aim of the research project is to provide evidence about the hidden gender regime’s influence on households’ energy expenditures. In order to control for social conditions, we focus on the sex of the households’ main income earner. We utilize the sample survey of German income and expenditure 2008 by using data mining approaches (causal inference with random forests). The challenge we are dealing with is the search for the determinants causing this difference between women and men: is it rather caused by individual factors like preferences or attitude, or is it rather caused by structural factors like socio-economic or cultural context. The research shows that factors affecting personal characteristics like preferences or attitudes seem not to explain gender differences in electricity consumption. Instead gender differences in the electricity expenditures are caused by the unequal distribution of female and male headed households to the different types of households. This finding leads to the crucial question why women and men are distributed that unequal to the position of the household’s main income earner. Germany’s welfare regime has historically emphasized traditional gender roles by enacting policies encouraging the male breadwinner model. Despite some modernization efforts, this model is still dominant. Women’s income is seen as additional earning, they are still the main caregivers at home(Grunow 2006) . Recent research shows that women become households’ main income earner for the most part in non planned situations like divorce, male’s unemployment, etc. (Brehmer, Klenner, and Klammer 2010; Klenner and Klammer 2009) . Although the results are not unexpected, they are contributing to research on energy consumption in several dimensions. On the one hand, they explore the impact of the institutional context on individual’s scope in making choices concerning individual’s energy consumption. Furthermore, the impact of the institutional context differs to individuals’ characteristics and status. Therefore, gender differences in electricity spending are determined rather by structural than by individual factors.


The project revealed that gender matters in energy transformations in OECD countries. Energy transformation processes and gender relations are interdependent: Energy transformations shape and are shaped by gender relations. Therefore, it is argued that the political and institutional conditions also need to be integrated into the branch of research dealing with the social impacts of energy transformations in order to understand social mechanisms of distribution


Fraune, Cornelia (2016): The politics of speeches, votes, and deliberations: Gendered legislating and energy policy-making in Germany and the United States. In: Energy Research & Social Science 09/2016, pp. 134–141.

Fraune, Cornelia (2015): Gender Matters: Women, Renewable Energy, and Citizen Participation in Germany. In: Energy Research & Social Science 07/2015, pp. 55-65.

Fraune, Cornelia (2014): Die Energiewende aus der Geschlechterperspektive. In: Femina Politica 01/2014, 23rd vol., pp. 125-129.

Work in progress

Bürgerbeteiligung in der Energiewende – auch für Bürgerinnen? In: Lars Holstenkamp /Jörg Radtke (Hrsg.): Energiewende und Partizipation – Transformationen von Gesellschaft und Technik. Springer VS.

A gendered perspective on energy transformations. In: Andreas Goldthau /Michael Keating/ Caroline Kuzemko (Eds.): Handbook on the IPE of Energy and Resources. Edward Elgar.

Lectures and conference papers

“A gendered perspective on energy transformations”. Paper presented at IPSA World Congress 2016, Poznan, Poland.

“Is there a gender difference in energy policy preferences? Analyzing legislative speeches by text mining approaches”. Paper presented at the 74th MPSA Annual Conference 2016, Chicago, USA.

„Female Legislators‘ Influence on Hard Policies: Women’s Representation in German and U.S. Energy Policy Compared“. Paper presented at the 73th Annual MPSA Conference, April 16 – April 19, 2015, Chicago, USA.

„Does the Gender Regime Influence Private Electricity Consumption?: Socio-economic Factors Explaining Households‘ Electricity Expenditures in Germany“. Paper presented at the 73th Annual MPSA Conference, April 16 – April 19, 2015, Chicago, USA (with Simon Hegelich).

„Stromausgaben der privaten Haushalte in Deutschland – Spielt Gender eine Rolle?“, Vortrag auf dem gemeinsamen Workshop „Transformation des Energiesystems“ des Forschungskollegs Siegen (FoKoS) und des Hamburgischen WeltWirtschaftsInstituts (HWWI), 28. November 2014, Hamburg (mit Simon Hegelich und Daniel Altvater).

„Energy policy and gender relations in industrialized countries: Evidence from Germany“. Paper presented at the MPSA annual conference 2014, 04. April 2014, Chicago.

„Energy price disparities and their effect on public welfare in Europe“., Paper presented at the MPSA annual conference 2014, 03. April 2014, Chicago (with Simon Hegelich).

„Geschlechtsspezifische Auswirkungen der Energiewende in Südwestfalen“, eingeladener Vortrag im Rahmen der Sitzung des Arbeitskreises „Räumliche Politik und Planung der Energiewende: Zwischen Regionalisierung und Rekommunalisierung“ der Akademie für Raumforschung und Landesplanung (ARL), 08. November 2013, Berlin.

„Geschlechtsspezifische Auswirkungen der Energiewende in Südwestfalen“, Vortrag im Rahmen der Veranstaltung ‚offene Uni‘ der Universität Siegen, 15. Juni 2013, Siegen.


Bäck, Hanna, Marc Debus, and Jochen Müller. 2014. “Who Takes the Parliamentary Floor? The Role of Gender in Speech-making in the Swedish Riksdag.” Political Research Quarterly 67 (3): 504–18.

Bang, Guri, and Tora Skodvin. 2014. “U.S. climate policy and the shale gas revolution.” In Toward a new climate agreement: Conflict, resolution and governanceRoutledge advances in climate change research, eds. Todd L. Cherry, Jon Hovi and Dave McEvoy. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 76–90.

Bolzendahl, C. 2014. “Opportunities and Expectations: The Gendered Organization of Legislative Committees in Germany, Sweden, and the United States.” Gender & Society 28 (6): 847–76.

Brehmer, Wolfram, Christina Klenner, and Ute Klammer. 2010. Wenn Frauen das Geld verdienen – eine empirische Annäherung an das Phänomen der „Familienernährerin“. Düsseldorf: Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut. WSI-Diskussionspapier, 170. (Accessed November 11, 2014).

Cooke, Lynn P. 2011. Gender-class equality in political economies. New York, NY: Routledge.

Elson, Diane. 1998. “The Economic, the Political and the Domestic: Businesses, States and Households in the Organisation of Production.” New Political Economy 3 (2): 189–208.

Fraune, Cornelia. 2016. “The politics of speeches, votes, and deliberations: Gendered legislating and energy policy-making in Germany and the United States.” Energy Research & Social Science 19: 134–41.

Grunow, D. 2006. “Late 20th-Century Persistence and Decline of the Female Homemaker in Germany and the United States.” International Sociology21 (1): 101–31.

Helm, Dieter. 2007. “The New Energy Paradigm.” In The New Energy Paradigm, ed. Dieter Helm. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 9–35.

Klenner, Christina, and Ute Klammer. 2009. “Weibliche Familienernährerinnen in West- und Ostdeutschland. Wunschmodell oder neue Prekarität?” In Rollenleitbilder und -realitäten in Europa: Rechtliche, ökonomische und kulturelle Dimensionen ; Dokumentation des Workshops 20. – 22. Oktober 2008. 1st ed. Bd. 8, ed. Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend. Baden-Baden: Nomos-Verl, 58–80.

Levi, Michael. 2013. “America’s Energy Opportunity: How to Harness the New Sources of U.S. Power.” Foreign Affairs 92 (3): 92–104.

McCright, Aaron M., and Chenyang Xiao. 2014. “Gender and Environmental Concern: Insights from Recent Work and for Future Research.” Society & Natural Resources 27 (10): 1109–13.

Nelson, Julie A. 2008. “Economists, value judgments, and climate change: A view from feminist economics.” Ecological Economics 65 (3): 441–47.

Pearson, K., and L. Dancey. 2011. “Elevating Women’s Voices in Congress: Speech Participation in the House of Representatives.” Political Research Quarterly 64 (4): 910–23.

Ridgeway, Cecilia L. 2011. Framed by gender: How gender inequality persists in the modern world. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rosenbaum, Walter A. 2014. American energy: The Politics of 21st Century Policy. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: CQ Press.

Smil, Vaclav. 2010. Energy transitions: History, requirements, prospects. Santa Barbara: Praeger.

Sundström, Aksel, and Aaron M. McCright. 2016. “Women and nuclear energy: Examining the gender divide in opposition to nuclear power among swedish citizens and politicians.” Energy Research & Social Science 11: 29–39.

Weidner, Helmut, and Lutz Mez. 2008. “German Climate Change Policy: A Success Story With Some Flaws.” The Journal of Environment & Development 17 (4): 356–78.

Xiao, Chenyang, and Aaron M. McCright. 2012. “Explaining Gender Differences in Concern about Environmental Problems in the United States.”Society & Natural Resources 25 (11): 1067–84.


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Dr. Cornelia Fraune