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Program of the Winter School on Energy Scenarios

Winter School on Energy Scenarios, 30th January - 03rd Februar 2017, Kurhaus Trifels



The program will contain lectures and structured discussion sessions. The school consists of the following four tracks:


Future decentralized energy systems

  • Overview on energy system modelling and scenarios analysis in practice
  • Challenges for energy scenarios in a multi-stakeholder environment
  • Future advancements in energy system modelling and analysis approaches


Impact of scenarios

  • Understand the impact of energy scenarios on society, decision makers and the general public
  • What aspects, properties or attributes of energy scenarios are decisive in decision-making processes?
  • How are energy scenarios perceived, communicated and used in public debate?


Multi-criteria assessment of energy scenarios

  • Addressing of social, economic and environmental criteria such as material consumption, land transformation, public acceptance, health impacts, and others in energy scenario assessment
  • Integration Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) into ESS
  • Treatment of system endogenous energy flows in LCA
  • Multi-criteria optimization


Quality Criteria for Energy Scenarios

  • Validity and reliability: how to assess future scenarios?
  • Assessing scenario development process: knowledge integration, source variety and data validation.
  • Epistemological foundation of scenarios.
  • Uncertainty in scenarios.


Preliminary Schedule



Future (decentralized) Energy Systems

In the context of upcoming environmental, social and economic challenges many states put much effort into shaping energy systems towards sustainability and focus on the integration of renewable energy sources (RES) and energy efficiency improvement. In the industrialised countries, the integration of RES leads to a paradigm shift: the large scale promotion of renewable energy sources may steer from a centralized energy generation to a locally distributed system with many producers, consumers or prosumers. Scenario methods are used to explore possible pathways and technology options towards a more flexible, sustainable and decentralized future energy system. In the winter school, we will discuss modelling methods to describe a future energy system and particularly the role of decentralized energy and storage both from supply and demand side in the whole system. Additionally, policy options promoting energy efficiency or renewable energy are discussed.


Impact of Energy Scenarios

Energy scenarios have proven useful to systematically study possible energy futures. Next to their academic value, i.e. the understanding of possible pathways of the systems development, energy scenarios naturally only exist in the techno-socio-economic environment they try to describe. In order to shape that environment, the researcher has to understand her impact on society, decision makers and the general public.

Potentially, the findings play an important role in decision-making processes concerning the future of energy supply and demand and research. However, little knowledge is available about how political and economic actors make use of scenarios, consider their impacts and consequences and introduce them into public debate.

The session wants to delve into the following questions: Which impacts do energy scenarios have on energy politics and the private sector? What aspects, properties or attributes of energy scenarios are decisive in those decision-making processes? How do energy scenarios enter other subsystems of society such as the economy, the political system or cultural institutions such as education or popular entertainment (movies, books)? How are they absorbed by the potential users? How are scenarios based on scientific reasoning and language transformed by the very process of being communicated? How are energy scenarios perceived, communicated and used in public debate?

Multi-criteria Assessment

Many existing energy system scenarios (ESS) used for policy advice focus on the cost minimization goal considering mainly primary energy and CO2 emission constraints. In order to model and define pathways towards a sustainable future energy system, there is a need to address other social, economic and environmental criteria such as material consumption, land transformation, public acceptance, health impacts, and others. In recent literature there has been increasing activity to integrate these issues through ex-post scenario analysis. A widely used approach is to integrate Life Cycle Assessment into ESS in which new technologies become part of the electricity mix assessing their interaction, while endogenous treatment of equipment life-cycles has not yet been achieved.

Topics discussed within this part of the winter school are existing approaches of multi-criteria analysis, the definition of relevant indicators and target functions, the application of dynamic approaches for ex-post analysis of energy scenarios and methods to implement multi-criteria into energy system optimization models.


Quality Criteria of Energy Scenarios

Energy scenarios like other scientific products need quality criteria in order to be evaluated against each other. The problem with future oriented knowledge (e.g. scenarios) is that, unlike usual scientific exercises, criteria like validity and reliability cannot directly be applied to this kind of knowledge (since the outcome of scenario exercise cannot be compared to reality). Also, modelling of energy systems based on scenarios poses the same challenges as any other complex system. Due to the sheer amount of thinkable combinations and results, only few possibilities can be investigated and validated directly. One way to narrow the solution space is to restrict it to what is deemed possible (in contrast to just thinkable), consistent with existing and relevant knowledge. The main challenges then are to identify this knowledge, to define relevance and adapt it to the scenario. This applies to framework data (i.e. exogenous data) as well as the model assumptions (i.e. mathematical functions used). It requires expertise in the investigated field itself, but also methodological experience and knowledge about the model one wants to create (Dieckhoff et al, 2014).

The epistemological structure of energy scenarios also remains controversial. For some scholars: ‘‘as it is hardly possible to determine the quality of scenario outcomes, the quality and objectiveness of a scenario has to be determined by the ‘quality’ of the scenario development process’’ (Grunwald 2011, p. 826) which encompass the quality of the scenario components too. However, scenarios are opaque constructs consisting of highly diverse elements: scientific knowledge of diverse origin and validity, knowledge from the realm of experience, ad hoc suppositions, estimates of relevance, ceteris paribus conditions, etc. (Grunwald 2011, p. 827). All these impose difficulties on the judgement over the quality of energy scenarios and the criteria to make such.

Accordingly, the winter school aims to open the discussion about above mentioned issues, together with presenting real world cases to illustrate the areas of ambiguity.