To achieve Paris Agreement targets low-carbon technologies need to be deployed on a massive scale, alongside energy efficiency and behavioural change measures. But carbon cuts cannot be delivered at the expense of everything else – the economies of tomorrow need to be dynamic, productive and low carbon. Risks and opportunities exist in every low carbon transition. These need to be identified and planned for – successful transitions will avoid or mitigate risks whilst making the most of opportunities.

TRANSrisk is conducting assessments that will underpin a decision-support tool for climate policy-makers, both in the European Union and around the world. The project explores transition pathways with stakeholders in 15 country and regional case studies in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America. SEI is part of a consortium of 12 organisations coordinated by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the project is a three-year research effort that concludes at the end of 2018.

The project’s objective is to produce a new assessment framework, and an accompanying toolbox, for policy-makers. TRANSrisk aims to assess low-emission transition pathways that are technically and economically feasible and acceptable from social and environmental points of view. TRANSrisk brings together quantitative models and qualitative approaches, focusing on participatory consultations with stakeholders as a link between the approaches. It aims to create a new interdisciplinary assessment framework that incorporates risk and uncertainty in evaluating transition pathways, informed by an analysis of innovation system dynamics. The project combines macro-level energy and economic modeling with analyses of the roles of multiple actors in technology innovation processes and participatory stakeholder engagement.

Background

The international community is moving towards ambitious decarbonisation commitments. Meeting these commitments will require wide-ranging socio-economic transitions, characterised by uncertainties and risks that vary considerably across nations and regions and for different actors and stakeholders. New technologies will play a crucial role in these transitions, and careful design of innovation policies is required to promote technology uptake while achieving the desired societal benefits at reasonable cost.

This requires an understanding of how technological developments interact with economic instruments, as well as the roles and relationships of key actors in decision-making processes. Transition pathways towards decarbonisation must also be aligned with other closely related societal objectives such as energy access; the security and resilience of energy systems; and the integrated management of water resources, land and ecosystems.

SEI’s role within TRANSrisk

SEI leads research into the relationship between innovation system dynamics and alternative transition pathways. Our approach considers multiple actors at different levels of the innovation system (e.g. consumers, households, private organisations and public entities). Our work examines connections between actors’ decision-making processes and the steering mechanisms applicable in transition pathways. Drawing on input from stakeholders in the case-study countries, we analyse the interests and capabilities of multiple actors under different socio-economic and socio-technical contexts.

SEI leads three TRANSrisk case studies in Indonesia, Kenya and Sweden. In Sweden, our work investigates the energy supply and technologies for road freight as a contribution to the country’s 2030 goal for a fossil-fuel-independent vehicle fleet. In Indonesia, we are analysing the sustainability and climate resilience of biofuels made from crop wastes and residues, in the context of the country’s climate and development goals. In Kenya, our focus is on the country’s energy access and security objectives; we are examining the diversification of supply through geothermal energy, and the sustainability of charcoal supply chains.

The findings will guide work on the climate implications of expanded energy access.

Video: EASME / YouTube.