Years Active: 2009-2014

Summary

Modellers and other scenario builders often recommend that the key outputs of their work are “insights, not numbers”. But it is not always easy to know whether the policy audiences that ‘consume’ our model outputs derive the appropriate insights from the reports and runs we provide. Furthermore, it is also unclear how modellers themselves interpret their scenarios and define the insights that are expected to hold, even if the full, often decades long, scenario projections turn out to not coincide with actual developments.

This was an important issue for the projects within the systems and modelling theme of UKERC II, many of which generated long-term scenarios of energy system development and communicated the findings of this work to policymakers.

Research Questions

The work in this project raised three key questions concerning the assumptions, outcomes and communication of energy scenarios such as those developed and applied in the various projects of the UKERC II Systems and Modelling Theme. Firstly, what are the drivers and motivations of those who construct scenarios, and how are these scenarios then constructed, understood and interpreted by those same people? Secondly, how is this communicated to users and how does this influence the way in which the scenarios are eventually used? Finally, how can we learn from both past and present practice - particularly within UKERC Systems and Modelling projects - to improve the way in which scenarios are communicated and used?

Project Tasks

In order to address these questions, the project was comprised of three research tasks: the first focused on learning from the practice of past energy scenario construction, while the second explored the perceptions of current users about the key insights generated by energy scenarios; the final component synthesised the lessons learnt in order to facilitate a more effective use of energy scenarios.