Connectivity Section Paper

Text excerpt for “Conceptualizing resilient energy transitions: the case of energy regions” (Binder et al. 2016): connectivity
As in other systems that are characterized by complex flows of materials, information or people, a sustainable energy system can be described by the two variables resilience and efficiency (Lietaer et al. 2011; Ulanowitz et al. 2009). The resilience of a given system can be broken down to the basic constituting properties of 1. “diversity”, and 2. “connectivity”. Diversity is dealt with in the prior section of this paper (referring to the diversity as the combination of the system-properties variety, balance and disparity, following Sterling 2007). Connectivity, on the other hand, can be measured by various different network metrics linked to basic network properties (see Boccaletti et al. 2006 for an overview). For social networks, three important metrics characterizing a network are (average) path-length (= node-to-node pathway steps), centrality (= number of connections per node) and modularity (= distribution of nodes and links throughout the network) (see Luthe et al. 2012; Wasserman & Faust 1994).
In addition to these three basic metrics, substitutability (in terms of nodes) and redundancy (in terms of structure) are also essential components of resilience, which need to be taken into account (see e.g. Alessa et al. 2009 for SES in urban areas; Borgatti et al. 1998 for social capital; Tononi et al 1999 for ecological networks). Roege et al. (2014) point to the central role (structural) redundancy plays in constituting resilience in (complex) system contexts, with a higher redundancy allowing the system to absorb external shocks faster and adapt to changing external condition better based on complementary characteristics of the modules in the case of (partial) independency.
From a social system’s perspective, the main supply-side players engaged in the transition process towards a renewable energy system can be bundled in so called “social arenas”. Social arenas are defined as “societal subsystems or spheres, characterized by their rationality and codes depending on their function” 2007). In order for the system to be sustainable at all points along the transition pathway, the actors from the different arenas have to collaborate with each other in order to ensure the functionality of the system, and drive the system’s development towards sustainability (see Schilling et al, in preparation). Thereby, social connectivity is characterized by the exchange patterns between actors from different social arenas. We can distinguish here between formal and informal exchange patterns (Granovetter 1981; Wasserman & Faust 1994). Formal connectivity can encompass shared business ownership, contractual collaboration arrangements, outsourcing and joint venture activities, membership in industry organizations, or similar. Informal connectivity includes information exchange on a personal and voluntary basis, between business partner or not, which help build social capital, but is not directly linked to formal collaboration agreements (e.g. Burt 1997; Tsai