Uncertainty, politics, and technology: Expert perceptions on energy transitions in the United Kingdom
Abstract Energy policy is beset by deep uncertainties, owing to the scale of future transitions, the long-term timescales for action, and numerous stakeholders. This paper provides insights from semi-structured interviews with 31 UK experts from government, industry, academia, and civil society. Participants were asked for their views on the major uncertainties surrounding the ability of the UK to meet its 2050 climate targets. The research reveals a range of views on the most critical uncertainties, how they can be mitigated, and how the research community can develop approaches to better support strategic decision-making. The study finds that the socio-political dimensions of uncertainty are discussed by experts almost as frequently as technological ones, but that there exist divergent perspectives on the role of government in the transition and whether or not there is a requirement for increased societal engagement. Finally, the study finds that decision-makers require a new approach to uncertainty assessment that overcomes analytical limits to existing practice, is more flexible and adaptable, and which better integrates qualitative narratives with quantitative analysis. Policy design must escape from ‘caged’ thinking concerning what can or cannot be included in models, and therefore what types of uncertainties can or cannot be explored. Highlights Semi-structured interviews involving over 30 strategic decision-makers in the UK energy system. Complex interlinkages between technology, society, and politics were explicitly acknowledged. Interviewees perceived increased public engagement and expanded policy ambition as key strategies for uncertainty mitigation. Participants noted that existing analytical modelling approaches overlook key dimensions of future energy transitions. Stakeholders call for better interdisciplinary integration between quantitative and qualitative research in future analysis.
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