DOI: 10.1002/epa2.1199 ISSN: 2380-6567

The game of energy transition: A game theoretical perspective on public participation procedures in infrastructure planning

Eva Ruffing, Viktoria Brendler
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


For energy transition, infrastructure construction is often indispensable but also contested and potentially problematic for social cohesion. Through a game theoretical lens, we examine the basic configuration of infrastructure conflicts. Informed by the empirical example of German electricity grid planning, we discuss three approaches to resolve multilevel infrastructure conflicts, (1) technocratic decision‐making, (2) participatory decision‐making, and (3) redistribution and compensation, as well as the conditions under which we can expect them to mitigate conflicts. Each of the three approaches has been tried out in German grid planning over time, which allows us to analyze whether the respective conditions were met and why the approaches were (not) able to resolve existing conflicts. We demonstrate that enduring conflicts in German grid expansion are not caused by a fundamentally ill‐defined decision‐making procedure but rather by a particularly “wicked” conflict structure that can hardly be resolved within planning procedures.

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