Pathways - Conflicting Transition Pathways for Deep Decarbonization
The project “Conflicting Transition Pathways for Deep Decarbonization” (PATHWAYS) is a research project funded by ENERGIX, Research Council of Norway (2019-2023). Rooted in Sustainability Transition Studies, we will investigate the following issues:
• New technologies for deep decarbonization
• Coupling of energy, transport and other sectors
• Transition pathways for deep decarbonization in three countries (Norway, Denmark, and Germany)
• Interests and strategies of industry actors to enact preferred pathways
• Integrating insights from innovation studies, political sciences and energy system modelling
Meeting the grand challenge of reducing carbon emissions requires moving beyond decarbonizing electricity generation, and towards ‘deep decarbonization’, which involves coordinated responses across established sectors and industries. Research and policy have so far concentrated on the emergence and diffusion of specific low-carbon technologies, often within the electricity sector. Deep decarbonization, however, involves shaping new sector linkages to introduce low carbon and complementary technologies in sectors such as transportation, construction, and industry. This requires a policy shift, including in regulations and market designs.
Coordinated involvement of multiple sectors increases the complexity of policymaking, and challenges current practises and competences in public administration. Deep decarbonization also intensifies political struggles over regulations and market designs, which again is profoundly challenging decision makers and researchers. Our project will identify and structure the underlying complexities, and provide new knowledge for decision makers, for navigating deep decarbonization.
The project aims to make contributions to the literatures on sustainability transitions, public policy, valuation studies, and energy system modelling.
We explore the characteristics of technologies that are central to deep decarbonization across multiple sectors. This includes both low carbon technologies such as hydrogen, CCS and technologies related to pervasive electrification (e.g. electric cars, ships, airplanes, construction machines, heat pumps, etc) as well as enabling technologies that facilitate cost-efficient integration of those new technologies (e.g. charging infrastructure, battery systems, ICT, etc). As a unique feature of these technologies, their development typically depends on cross-sectoral alignments of regulations, markets, culture, networks, and actors as well as policy coordination. PATHWAYS will study these technologies to inform revisions of established frameworks for understanding both evolution of a focal technology as well as broader transition processes. We will also assess the ‘technical’ feasibility of selected key technologies. The work package will be led by Allan Dahl Andersen, Associate Professor at TIK, with support from ETH and a postdoctoral researcher to be employed on the project.
We analyse the politics of multi-sectoral sustainability transition pathways to deep decarbonization in three countries (Norway, Denmark and Germany). While sustainability transition pathways have been analysed for particular sectors, there is currently limited understanding of the politics of multi-sectoral transition pathways; do we e.g. see new types of cross-sectoral policy coalitions and contestations. We also analyse how actors seek to legitimize certain existing or novel market arrangements compatible with their preferred pathway. We assess the ‘political’ feasibility of selected pathways for deep decarbonization. PATHWAYS advances the literature by studying the politics of multi-sectoral transition pathways through country comparative studies of coalitions and actors. The work package is led by Tor Håkon Jackson Inderberg, Senior Researcher at FNI, in collaboration with ETH and AAU.
Using whole energy system modelling (TIMES), we identify and analyse various deep decarbonization pathways for Norway to understand important trade-offs. Such analysis assesses the techno-economic feasibility of pathways. Energy system modelling however leaves out the role of actor strategies, non-linear innovation processes, market formation, politics and other highly contextual factors. Here, we draw on the other work packages to include technical and political feasibility of pathways in the analysis. PATHWAYS thus aims to integrate insights from sustainability transition studies and energy system analysis. The work package is led by Kari Espegren, Senior research at IFE, with support from project partners.