Narratives of Low-Carbon Transitions: Understanding Risks and Uncertainties presents case studies that illustrate the complexities involved with moving towards lower-carbon energy sources. The book aims to enhance understanding of both the benefits and risks of such transitions. Greater understanding of these issues is needed to guide successful implementation of comprehensive transition pathways, and, ultimately, to lead to sustainable social and environmental outcomes.
The case studies in the book are presented as narratives that draw on stakeholder-driven research efforts. These case studies, set in a wide variety of development contexts worldwide, examine both the supply and demand sides of energy transitions, and interactions with other sectors, among them, industrial production, transport, building, and behaviour patterns at household and individual levels.
Case studies are from: Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Greece, Indonesia, Kenya, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
SEI researchers led or contributed to the following three chapters.
Indonesia: Risks and uncertainties associated with biogas for cooking and electricity
Indonesia’s energy demand and consumption have increased following its economic growth. At the same time, the country seeks to achieve a renewable energy target of 23% by 2025 to help meet its Nationally Determined Contributions target. However, challenges such as inadequate policy planning and implementation and increased coal power plant installations continue to hinder Indonesia’s ability to achieve these targets. The application of clean and efficient renewable energy presents the opportunity to reduce emissions and meet the growing energy demand. This narrative explores the risks and uncertainties of the biogas technology transition pathways. The authors examine two pathways: household biogas digesters, and large-scale deployment of biogas to generate electricity. Four uncertainties emerge: unclear roles of public and private sectors, inconsistent targets under changing political terms, an unspecified national biogas target, and contrasting views on biogas development
Kenya: Risks and uncertainties around low-carbon energy pathways
Kenya has high development ambitions, aiming to become a middle-income country by 2030. These development ambitions depend on the rapid expansion of the energy sector as set out by Kenya’s Nationally Determined Contributions. In the power sector, geothermal seems poised to play an important catalyzing role in this low-carbon transition pathway. Having moved from niche technology to mainstream, geothermal power development now sits at an important threshold. After years of public-led investment, Kenya is seeking to transition to more private-sector participation. At the same time, Kenya is seeking to modernize its cooking sector, which remains dominated by traditional fuels. Urbanization will have significant implications on resources if charcoal remains the main cooking fuel. Through a mix of regulations, promotion of improved kiln and cookstove technologies, and supporting alternative fuels, Kenya seeks a dual approach of increasing the sustainability of the charcoal sector. The authors explore the risks and uncertainties associated with the greater use of geothermal power, and sustainable charcoal development activities.
Transition pathways, risks and uncertainties
The authors provide a synthesis of 11 low-carbon transition pathways from across the globe, and explore the risks and uncertainties associated with them. The discussion focuses on three nested dimensions present in all pathways: technological innovations implemented in a local context; policy mixes promoting these technologies; and society, where social-economic priorities may lead individuals and communities to support or oppose the low-carbon pathway. The authors also explore the meaning of scale and stakeholders’ perceptions of time in low-carbon pathways. The discussion reflects the complexity associated with assessing risks in contested settings. While many of these risks are context specific, and reflect a broad range of stakeholder perspectives, common risks are found across the case studies, regardless of the local context, the technology promoted, and the policy mix implemented.