Theme 1: Transitions, Scenarios and Historical Analysis

Transitions Work Stream

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 work stream 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.

Scenarios Work Stream

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 new 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 work stream will interrogate this substantial literature, and synthesize key findings, focusing on the impact of uncertainty  towards UK energy transitions and resultant Outlook 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)