The REEEM pathways consist of storylines, supported by numbers drawn from model analyses. They all start from the same point in time, where the status quo is represented, in terms of environment, global setting, EU policies, economy, society, technology development. Then, each pathway narrates one way the energy system could transition (in terms of technology investments and use of resources) and what impacts the change could bear on the economy, society and environment.
To fulfil the aims of REEEM expressed in Section 1.4, the REEEM pathways are designed to bear three main characteristics. Firstly, they facilitate the development of the analytic framework. To this end, the following practices are carried out prior to the design of the three REEEM pathways:
- The pathways are not established a priori, with a pre-concept of what needs to be analysed. The analysis instead starts with setting up a pilot case. The pilot is a simple, yet informative first-attempt analysis of potential trade-offs between opposite energy policy decisions. It is used to coordinate the rolling out of modelling activities by various group within the Consortium. It is set up by providing all modelling teams with a storyline, including one key assumption (e.g. a decarbonisation target). Each team turns the storyline in modelling assumptions according to the structure of their models, without harmonising all assumptions with other teams. While lacking the coherency of a well-calibrated approach, this method is useful as a starting point for modelling activities, as:
- It gives one first picture of the case that needs investigation in the project and it exposes strengths and weaknesses of the modelling tools available to the Consortium;
- Consequently, it provides understanding of which tools may be used and at which stage of the modelling process (in REEEM, one tool initially proposed was replaced and others were scheduled for use at a later stage);
- It serves as a discussion ground for 1) calibration of the large modelling effort to be undertaken in the rest of the project and 2) mapping of the most relevant links between models to be established;
- Overall, it helps expose that upfront rigidity / hard integration between tools would have narrowed the scope of analysis and potentially prevented its success;
- After the pilot phase identifies the modelling needs and potential steps to address them, the core pathway assessment starts, focusing on few representative pathways, narrating clearly different futures.
- Each pathway is summarised using simple but comprehensive storylines as in the approaches by Shell, and the IAM Consortium.
Secondly, the REEEM pathways are co-designed with stakeholders, to collect experiences from sector experts, technology experts, industry and start-ups, civil society and policy makers about the pervasive issues and to turn them in key numerical assumptions. The stakeholders are involved in two stages:
- They are first asked to highlight ‘what matters’ in the transition to a low-carbon EU energy system and needs to be considered. They decide key inputs and direction of the analysis, feeding directly into the choice of the overall topics of the pathways.
- Afterwards, they are called to provide specific inputs and assumptions required for the modelling activities.
Finally, the REEEM pathways are comprehensive and coherent. They are comprehensive as they analyse the implications of decarbonisation across several sectors and they represent cause-effect relationships between aspects of the global and European geopolitical setting, the economy, the society, the environment and technology. However, as they cover such a broad range of issues, they are at risk of inconsistency: it is not uncommon that a picture of how the future may play out is inconsistent in the assumption of how different sectors may develop, e.g.: the growth of energy demand may not be consistent with the projected GDP growth; the favourite technology deployment pathways may not be consistent with the consumers’ preferences; the planned use of resources on a national scale may conflict with local constraints. The risk of inconsistencies is even higher, considering that stakeholders are involved in the pathway design process. Stakeholders could include in the pathways elements and assumptions related to their own experiences and not necessarily consistent with other stakeholders’ assumptions. Internal coherence is ensured by making use of the morphological approach from the earliest phases of the pathway design: in stakeholder workshops dedicated to defining the overall theme of the pathways, the future is imagined as divided into six ‘dimensions’, Global setting, Policy, Economy, Environment, Society and Technology. For each of these dimensions, several potential changes are assumed separately, based on inputs from stakeholders. After all assumptions are collected for each dimension, only combinations of assumptions across the dimensions which are not mutually exclusive are considered and internally coherent storylines derived from them.
Coherency is also checked at later stages of the analysis, for example during the collection of numerical assumptions for the models, and after model results have been obtained (the consistency of the results with the overall assumptions on how the global end European geopolitical setting, economy, society, environment and technology may evolve is checked).