Realising Transition Pathways

Since 2008 members of 3S have been key social science partners in a large EPSRC (Energy and Physical Sciences Research Council) interdisciplinary consortium on Transition Pathways involved in developing, appraising and realising pathways towards a UK low carbon electricity system by 2050.

The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy consortium was initially established in 2008 and was sponsored by E.ON UK and EPSRC. This 9 institution collaborative project has pioneered interdisciplinary whole-system analyses of UK energy transitions.

In May 2012 the consortium was awarded a further £3.17m in funding from EPSRC to continue with a second phase of the project: Realising Transition Pathways. This four-year phase aims to extend and enhance the work of the original Transition Pathways consortium and explore what needs to be done to realise a transition that successfully addresses the energy policy ‘trilemma’. i.e. the simultaneous delivery of low carbon, secure and affordable energy services.

The work of the consortium involves new studies of historical transition experience, of ‘branching points’ on pathways, strategic issues (including horizon scanning of medium-term technological developments on the supply-side, the network infrastructure and the demand-side), as well as network, market simulation and behavioural modelling, with ‘whole systems’ appraisal’ of key energy technologies and the full pathways within a ‘sustainability framework’.

The work of the 3S team on the Realising Transition Pathways project – led by Jason Chilvers (PI) and involving Tom Hargreaves (Co-I), Noel Longhurst (Senior Research Associate on the project) along with additional research support from Alex Haxeltine and Helen Pallett – has a two strands:

  • Leading a work package on Conceptualising, Mapping and Analysing Actor Dynamics in the Contemporary UK Electricity System. This work aims to map out, conceptualise and analyse how electricity system actors shape socio-technical pathways. In particular it is interested in exploring the question of what it means to participate in transitions through a series of in-depth empirical case studies that bring socio-technical transitions theory into direct conversation with relational and co-productionist theories of participation in science and technology studies (STS) and democratic theory.
  • Leading on the interdisciplinary work of the consortium. Specifically, 3S is leading a series of ‘integration experiments’ in energy demand modeling. Through these experiments we are developing novel collaborations between social scientists and engineers that combine quantitative modeling approaches with qualitative forms of evidence, as well as innovating and reflecting on new interdisciplinary energy research practices. In both cases, the work of 3S will contribute to the further refinement of the transition pathways and their conceptual foundations.

In both cases, the work of 3S will contribute to the further refinement of the transition pathways and their conceptual foundations.


People involved:
Jason Chilvers (PI)
Tom Hargreaves (Co-I)
Noel Longhurst (Senior Research Associate on the project)
additional research support from Alex Haxeltine and Helen Pallett

Timescale: 2012-2016


Funded by: EPSRC

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