Socio-technical scenarios as a methodological tool to explore social and political feasibility in low-carbon transitions: Bridging computer models and the multi-level perspective in UK electricity generation (2010–2050)

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Social acceptance and political feasibility are important issues in low-carbon transitions. Since computer models struggle to address these issues, the paper advances socio-technical scenarios as a novel methodological tool. Contributing to recent dialogue approaches, we develop an eight-step methodological procedure that produces socio-technical scenarios through various interactions between the multi-level perspective and computer models. As a specific contribution, we propose ‘transition bottlenecks’ as a methodological aid to mediate dialogue between qualitative MLP-based analysis of contemporary dynamics and quantitative, model-generated future pathways. The transition bottlenecks also guide the articulation of socio-technical storylines that suggest how the social acceptance and political feasibility of particular low-carbon innovations can be improved through social interactions and endogenous changes in discourses, preferences, support coalitions and policies. Drawing on results from the 3-year PATHWAYS project, we demonstrate these contributions for the UK electricity system, developing two low-carbon transition pathways to 2050 commensurate with the 2 °C target, one based on technological substitution (enacted by incumbent actors), and one based on broader system transformation (enacted by new entrants).

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article number119258
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020

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