The transformation of the German, European and global energy system is not only a challenge from the point of view of technology and natural sciences, but also constitutes a task for society as a whole. Hence this process must also be researched from a social scientific perspective. Energy systems are complex, socio-technical systems with multiple interdependencies, i.e. engineers and natural scientists must conduct their research in close cooperation with economic, legal and political scientists, as well as with sociologists. Inter- and trans-disciplinary research within EFZN allows a holistic, systematic development of valid recommendations for and strategies of actions.

Typical problems concern safety and reliability, economic feasibility, financeability, acceptance, decentralisation, democratisation and environmental compatibility of energy systems as well as technological comparisons. The status quo and the further development of state regulations and legal frameworks in Germany and the EU are taken into consideration. Aspects of public service and public goods in urban and rural areas, issues of acceptance with consideration of democratic dialogue and decision-taking structures, problems of demographic developments, as well as the impact on the environment and resource availability are further topics of research from this area. Furthermore, the effect of state subsidies and other monetary and non-monetary incentives, as well as burdens through rates and taxes on the transformation of energy systems are researched. One focus area is the structure and conduct of stakeholders. Because with a transformation of the energy system the roles of producers and consumers, local, regional and global possibilities of influence and power relations, as well as living habits and lifestyles will change.

The methodological focus of social scientific research is on quantitative and qualitative analyses of data, observations, surveys and experiments, as well as the development of decision-supporting systems that are often based on multiple criteria and scenario analyses with simulations or optimisations.