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Transformative policy mixes in socio-technical scenarios: The case of the low-carbon transition of the German electricity system (2010-2050)

: Rogge, Karoline; Pfluger, Benjamin; Geels, Frank W.


Technological forecasting and social change 151 (2020), Art. 119259, 15 S.
ISSN: 0040-1625
Fraunhofer ISI ()
socio-technical transition; transformative policy mix; German "Energiewende"; MLP; energy system modelling; transition pathway

Much research and policy advice for addressing climate change has focused on developing model-based scenarios to identify pathways towards achieving decarbonisation targets. The paper's first aim is to complement such model-based analysis with insights from socio-technical transition analysis to develop socio-technical storylines that show how low-carbon transitions can be implemented. Our second aim is to explore how policymakers could govern such transition processes through transformative policy mixes. We take the example of the transition of the German electricity system towards renewable energies, and elaborate two transition pathways which are assumed to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but differ in terms of lead actors, depth and scope of change: the first pathway captures the substitution of technological components (pathway A), while the second aims at broader system transformation (pathway B). We find that multi-dimensional socio-technical change (pathway B) requires greater emphasis on societal experimentation and a more proactive role for anticipatory deliberation processes from the outset. In contrast, shifting gear from a new entrant friendly past trajectory to an incumbent dominated pathway (pathway A) requires agency from incumbents and is associated with regime stabilizing instruments defending the old regime while simultaneously fulfilling decarbonisation as additional success criteria.