The development of social science research on smart grids: a semi-structured literature review

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Background: Smart technologies, such as smart grids, are emerging as indispensable aspects of an energy transformation and come with hopes of more sustainable resource use. A substantial amount of research has examined the technical, economic, and environmental implications of these technologies, but less attention has been paid to their social aspects. For the smart grid projects to be realised, studies that include the actors who are supposed to implement the visions are needed. Results: A semi-structured literature review was conducted to investigate the state of social science literature on smart grids and identify the main research avenues and research gaps by addressing a broad research question: “What kind of knowledge is produced in social science studies on smart grids?” We retrieved peer-reviewed articles from the Scopus and Web of Science (WoS) databases up until 2022 and mapped them in terms of features such as topic, design, method, and theory. Conclusions: We found that knowledge development in social science studies on smart grids followed a pattern where most research focused on visions; professionals and users; and smart technologies in homes with a geographical focus on Europe or the USA. We identified six research gaps related to an overly vague definition of the smart grid and the need to include more diverse actors and geographical places to advance our understanding of the smart grid. There is also a lack of studies relating to energy democracy, the resistance of smart grids and the centralised–decentralised nexus of the smart grid. These less studied areas can bring in new knowledge that enhances a deployment of a smart grids supporting not only technological development, but also society and users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalEnergy, Sustainability and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Other Social Sciences


  • Semi-structured literature review
  • Smart grids
  • Social science


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