Background: The multi-level transitions approach is a major ongoing international research effort seeking to understand how interactions between technological and social factors give rise to transition processes. This workstream will draw on this approach, as well as related research on co-evolution of technologies and institutions, and will constitute a significant UK contribution to the development and application of these ideas.
Aims and objectives: This work stream will develop a conceptual and analytical framework for exploring transition pathways to a low carbon energy system, and apply this framework to the elucidation of specific transition pathways for the UK energy system. This framework will enable analysis and, where appropriate, quantification of dynamic interactions between technological, social, economic and environmental factors relevant to transitions.
Background: A substantial range of studies on energy scenarios has been undertaken over the last 30 years, aimed at generating insights and provoking discussion over the possible evolution of energy systems. These studies have utilized forecasting and back-casting approaches, and interacted through a wide array of stakeholders from alternate perspectives. Scenarios have proved insightful frameworks for thinking through drivers, key uncertainties and challenging accepted thought paradigms in possible energy futures, most critically in the transitions to those futures. This workstream will interrogate this substantial literature, and synthesize key findings, focusing on the impact of uncertainty towards UK energy transitions and resultant policy goals.
Aims and objectives: This work stream will review and synthesize findings from the scenarios planning literature, particularly for relevant application to key UK energy policy issues. Key questions are:
- Are UK energy forecasts realistic and feasible in terms of engineering, institutional, social processes, required policy interventions, international assumptions?
- Which assumptions and timelines are required in transitional pathways?
- What key uncertainties or show-stoppers exist? (e.g., technical, regulatory, international events, conflict between UK policy objectives)
Background: although the UK has experienced major fuel and technology transitions from the Industrial Revolution to the present, they have received little attention in the modern energy literature, with its focus on post 1970s oil-shock experience. New research reveals the complex interactions between the ‘harder’ technological and infrastructural and the ‘softer’ institutional, organisational and behavioural components of energy transitions and so suggests the need to go beyond ‘just’ technology fixes and carbon pricing to address climate change. As the UK faces the challenge of engineering a low-carbon transition, a targeted study will identify lessons from selected past transitions, to make clear recommendations for the analysis, development and interrogation of prospective pathways to a high-electricity end-use transition.
Aims and objectives: to learn from analyses of the technological, institutional, socio-economic and environmental aspects of selected past energy system and related transitions, to advance the analysis, development and interrogation of prospective low carbon pathways. Objectives are to: extend existing approaches to the historical and prospective analysis of transition pathways; identify key lessons from selected case studies of past UK energy system transitions and pathways; compare them with selected international experience and identify UK-specific aspects; identify key non-energy infrastructure and service transition experiences, e.g. in sewage and water supply, that carry special resonance for prospective energy pathways; and contribute to analytical and empirical developments and evaluation in all three themes.