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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)

: Geels, Frank W.; McMeekin, Andrew; Pfluger, Benjamin


Technological forecasting and social change 151 (2020), Art. 119258, 14 pp.
ISSN: 0040-1625
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ISI ()
socio-technical transition; scenario; computer model; transition pathway; UK electricity generation

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).