Dr Timothy Foxon, University of Leeds
This paper describes the key findings and policy messages from an inter-disciplinary project developing and analysing transition pathways for a UK low carbon electricity system in the UK to 2050. The project is a collaboration between leading UK engineers, social scientists and policy analysts, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the energy company E.ON.
Three core transition pathways explore alternative future pathways for the evolution of the UK electricity system under different governance arrangements, dominated by market, government and civil society logics respectively:
• Market Rules: this pathway envisions the broad continuation of the current market-led governance pattern, leading to a concentration on large-scale low carbon technologies: coal and gas CCS, nuclear power and offshore wind, under incentives from a high carbon price.
• Central Co-ordination: this pathway envisions greater direct government involvement in the governance of energy systems, leading to greater reductions in energy service demands, but still a focus on centralised generation technologies. This is achieved through a government-created ‘Strategic Energy Authority’ that uses contracts with large energy companies to reduce the risks of low-carbon investments.
• Thousand Flowers: this pathway envisions more local, bottom-up diverse solutions, driven by innovative local authorities and citizens groups, such as the Transition Towns movement, and energy service companies (ESCOs) becoming key actors, developing local micro-grids and incentivising reductions in energy service demands. Small-scale renewable technologies emerge from niches, as positive feedbacks lead to ‘virtuous cycles’ in deployment of these technologies.
The pathways demonstrate that governance and regulatory frameworks will have a significant influence on the mix of low carbon generation options, the level of future energy service demands (including additional demand from electrification of heating and transport services) and mix of centralized and distributed generation. The paper also highlights the significant challenges facing market actors, energy users, social movements and policy-makers in realizing any of these pathways. The adoption of low-carbon generation and energy efficiency technologies will depend on changes to market and regulatory frameworks, to strategies of large and small firms, to practices of how households and businesses use energy. How these changes interact or ‘co-evolve’ will determine the nature of the pathway and the risks in realising it. Finally, the paper summarises how analysis of and reflection on these pathways could help to inform decision-making by government, firms and wider society on steps needed to realise a transition to a low carbon electricity future.
Categories: Academic PapersTransition-Pathways-to-a-Low-Carbon-Electricity-System-in-the-UK-Key-findings-and-policy-messages.pdf 662.28 KBFoxon_Transition_pathways_for_a_low_carbon_electricity_system.pdf 106.04 KB