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The urgency to cut energy-related greenhouse gas emissions is recognised by EU policy. Efforts to do so, however, are hindered by the limitations of software used to generate and assess national energy transition pathways. These tools generally overlook social issues and environmental sustainability in favour of a techno-economic worldview, where an optimal solution is determined by cost minimisation. Yet when it comes to the practical on-the-ground implementation of such pathways, real-world concerns come to the forefront. Such concerns are both environmental (e.g. land and resource use) and social (e.g. what trade-offs are important to local stakeholders). No workable solutions to integrate both of these into techno-economic energy system modelling software exist. We address this by developing and testing a novel digital workflow to integrate humans into scenario design while accurately modelling the relevant technical, economic and environmental constraints. With this project, we plant the seeds for locally desirable, environmentally friendly and implementable energy transition pathways.

We will (1) develop an automated approach that generates a scenario space: a wide range of alternatives that go beyond an economically optimal solution; (2) integrate the computation of social and environmental constraints into these alternatives; and (3) build an interactive system where experts and members of the public can feed their preferences into the generation of alternatives, co-creating and interactively visualising results. We hypothesise that this will permit the generation of clean energy pathways that embrace social and environmental sustainability, therefore engendering broader public support. Doing so involves methodological development, software implementation, and experimentation with pilot studies in Portugal. This work is done in a focussed consortium of three partners. ETHZ is a leading centre of high-resolution energy system modelling, ICTA-UAB is a leading centre in the development of integrated sustainability assessment methods, and FC.ID contributes its unique expertise combining modelling with participatory action research.

Call Topic: Novel Computational Approaches for Environmental Sustainability (CES), Call 2019
Start date: (24 months)
Funding support: 500 429 €