Outlooks, explorations, and normative scenarios: Approaches to global energy futures compared
This paper compares recent global energy scenarios developed by governments, international bodies, businesses and the scientific community. We divide the scenarios into three broad classes: outlooks which extrapolate current trends and anticipate policy developments; exploratory scenarios which may consider disruptions; and normative scenarios which derive energy system pathways consistent with a long-term goal. Many organisations are starting to blend outlooks, exploratory and normative approaches. The paper covers trends in primary energy demand to 2040, snapshots of the energy mix in 2040, drivers of demand, and the evolution of scenarios projections developed in recent years. We find sharp divergences between outlooks and normative scenarios compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change. All published outlooks imply that the world is not on an energy pathway compatible with the Paris Agreement. We conclude with an assessment of emerging themes including: scenario benchmarking and group think; adaptation of scenarios to real world developments; and the plausibility of different types of scenarios. We propose that more dialogue between scenario developers from the scientific community and those working in governments and commercial organisations could be beneficial. Research focusing on the organisational processes through which scenarios are developed could usefully extend this work.
Dr Alaa Al Khourdajie is a Senior Scientist at the Technical Support Unit of the Working Group 3 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He is based at Imperial College London. He has a particular interest in climate integrated assessment modelling (process-based models), international climate change cooperation (coalition formation and stability) and national climate policies. Alaa has a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Bath 2017, during which he looked at international cooperation on climate change and linkages with various trade policies such as border carbon adjustments.
About Energy Futures Lab
Energy Futures Lab is one of seven Global Institutes at Imperial College London. The institute was established to address global energy challenges by identifying and leading new opportunities to serve industry, government and society at large through high quality research, evidence and advocacy for positive change. The institute aims to promote energy innovation and advance systemic solutions for a sustainable energy future by bringing together the science, engineering and policy expertise at Imperial and fostering collaboration with a wide variety of external partners.