Understanding the controversial impact of new societal trends on long-term energy demand in European countries
The development of future energy demand is dependent on the complex relationship between technological and social innovations, the economic and political conditions that define societal behaviours and the influence of 'mega-trends' on systems. The beginning phases of the NewTRENDs project - the EU study commissioned under the H2020 program - was designed to identify and outline the elements of this complexity to improve upon the current state of energy demand models. We argue that to more accurately capture the system dynamics that effect energy demand, the traditional technology-focused modelling approach must be extended to account for new societal trends - emerging issues, institution shifts, conditions and additional factors that have substantial, and potentially disruptive, impacts on future energy demand. In this paper, we identify the new societal trends that are expected to be most relevant or disruptive for future energy demand. This is done in three consecutive steps. First, we selected energy relevant new societal trends based on an analysis of previous foresight studies and long-term energy demand scenarios. Second, in three expert workshops the trends were clustered and their potential importance and disruptiveness was assessed. Third and finally, the narratives for the resulting 14 major new societal trend clusters were developed describing the potential mechanisms of their controversial impact and disruptiveness for future energy demand. This paper builds the foundation for future work, where the identified trend clusters and narratives will inform the enhancement of energy demand models, which are frequently used to model European long-term energy and emissions scenarios. Furthermore, the narratives build the basis for scenario work and the cross-sectoral modelling of the trends. This contributes to a better understanding of potential non-linear developments of future energy demand and how energy (efficiency) policies could be designed to take these trends meaningfully into account.