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Institutional work in the transformation of the German energy sector

Patricia Graf & Heike Jacobsen (2021)

Utilities Policy 68, pp. 1-9

Abstract. Two European and German policies – one transitioning to sustainable energy and the other enhancing competition – strained the German electricity sector’s organizational structures, which had been designed for network stability and a secure supply. Digital technologies and the new business models were important factors in these changes. Based on qualitative interviews, we analyze how changes caused by liberalization and energy-transition policies are related to the internal organizational changes at publicly owned energy providers. While some companies legitimate new forms of work organization and employment, thereby disrupting old institutions, others block internal change with reference to the external institutional framework.

Extract: “Klopfleisch (2018, 146) asks: “Can corporations and municipal utilities manage the feat of reinventing themselves during this energy transition with more and better qualified staff?” Thus far, there is only a single study that attempts to answer this. Jacobsen et al., (2017) analyze changes to the organization of work at municipal energy suppliers by applying the concept of the sociology of conventions (Boltanski and Thevenot, 2006). They show that the prior “industrial-” and “family”-oriented conventions of evaluating conflicts arising from the reorganization of work tend to be overridden by more “market-” and “network-”oriented conventions. These findings imply some weakening of the historically deep-rooted dominance of supply security as the overarching orientation for management and employees in the energy supply sector.” (p. 3)

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