The objectives of the project will be addressed in 3 broad themes.

Transitions, scenarios and historical analysis;

Technical and social analysis of supply-side, demand-side and infrastructure networks;

Whole Systems Appraisal and Joint Working, Integration and Learning.

Research Challenges

To learn from past transitions to help explore future transitions and what might enable or avoid them;

To design and evaluate transition pathways towards alternative socio-technical energy systems and infrastructures for a low carbon future;

To understand and where appropriate model the changing roles, influences and opportunities of large and small ‘actors’ in the dynamics of energy transitions.


Figure 1: Possible Transition Pathways and the Factors that Influence them


Figure 1 (above) depicts factors that characterise the technological, infrastructural and institutional aspects of energy systems and influences on possible transition pathways (this figure is informed by an international research programme on ‘transitions in socio-technical systems’, described in Box 1, below). These influences flow from both ‘bottom up’, through social and technological innovation and experimentation, and from ‘top down’, through wider international, environmental and cultural factors. An ‘analytic – deliberative’ approach will be adopted, that is an approach that brings together both quantitative and qualitative contributions from a range of engineering and social science disciplines with different insights into the transitions problem. The research will involve significant engagement with other national and international research teams (e.g. various consortia and themes within Supergen/TSEC/UKERC and the Dutch Knowledge Network for System Innovations and Transitions) and a wide range of actors.

Overall research aims

The overall research aim is to select, develop and analyse a set of potential transition pathways for the UK energy system to a low carbon future, and undertake integrated assessments of the technical and economic feasibility and social and environmental potential and acceptability of these pathway.


The detailed objectives will be to identify and interrogate the dynamics of the pathways to transitions to a low carbon economy (i.e. transitions that achieve at least a 60% emissions reduction by 2050), by:

Developing a conceptual and analytical framework for exploring energy transition pathways, based on quantitative and qualitative methods, encompassing engineering, economic, environmental, policy and behavioural sciences;

Applying and testing this framework by identifying and exploring a limited set of transition pathways to a UK low carbon energy system focussing on the role of electricity supply and demand;

Undertaking detailed technical and social analysis of the feasibility and acceptability of these pathways, applying quantitative modelling and analysis of electricity systems and infrastructures, and qualitative assessment of the roles of industrial and consumer actors;

Bringing these together in a whole systems analysis, employing a ‘toolkit’ of techniques to explore and evaluate specific implications of the selected pathways to a highly electric, low carbon economy.

Thus the Consortium will both develop a general approach to examining the dynamics of energy transition pathways and apply it to and test it on a sub-set of pathways on a transition to a high electricity end-use low-carbon economy.

The objectives of the project will be addressed in 3 broad themes.