And short about a follow-up activity on this project – an ongoing STOA activity for the European Parliament on Future Energy Systems in Europe carried out by DBTh.
The method of the Danish project
Gy Larsen, project manager April 2008
In 2004 the Danish Board of Technology invited 10 representatives from the major actors in the Danish energy sector to participate in an investigation of possible ways forward for the Danish energy system in 2025. These 10 representatives were experts and stakeholders, researchers and representatives of NGO´s and authorities in the energy field and they were responsible as a Steering Group committee of the project.
The project was based on a dialogue with a so called Future Panel. The Panel was composed of members from the Danish Parliament. The Future Panel was a short-term committee with 20 participants, representing all political parties. This Future Panel was serviced from the Steering Group and from smaller working groups.
What kick-started the project?
The conditions of the Danish energy sector have changed due to liberalisation. Together with the international climate conventions and increased oil prices these factors have changed the frame conditions of the energy sector very much.
Different actors have expressed an interest in discussing how the Danish energy system could develop under these new conditions. Some of the actors from the energy sector contacted the Danish Board of Technology to stress the need of a dialogue between the politicians in the Danish Parliament and the energy sector about this new situation.
The actors underlined that companies now have difficulties with long term planning because of the pressure on them to have earnings in a short term perspective. But still all energy companies and researchers need to know something about expectations of the future to be able to invest and develop.
The Danish Board of Technology has a role to play as advisor to the Parliament and the government in technological and societal matters and we decided to take up this request and plan a project about the Danish energy system in the future – within the time perspective of 2025.
What did we do then?
The main aim was to involve the politicians in the Parliament and the actors in the energy sector in a close dialogue to forward a debate about the future – and to do it on a solid ground of knowledge. The project also wanted to give a contribution to the political decision making process and to make all the materials and results from the project available to a broad circle of institutions and persons – to feed a further debate.
The method we used is the so- called Future panel method. Here we engage the politicians in an ongoing process over a longer period ( 2 or 3 years). It is an important element in this Future panel method that it creates a close dialogue.
And why is this important?
Often the politicians will be involved only when final results are presented to them for comments or to give a seal of approval at the end of a process.
In the Danish Board of Technology we have good experiences with involving politicians and actors in a dialogue. During the 3 year long energy project period we have held 3 seminars and 3 minor meetings with the Steering group and the politicians and have set up 4 hearings in the Danish parliament led by members of the political panel in the project.
The politicians in the Parliament appreciate the opportunity for them to meet some of the actors in the energy sector in an atmosphere of confidence and dialogue far from their experiences with lobbying persons chasing the politicians with a narrow and biased agenda.
I will very much underline the importance of an open and broad discussion where it is possible to talk about different ideas and suggestions on the energy system and give space for a serious dialogue and to generate knowledge.
How did the project work out in practise?
We have as I mentioned arranged 4 hearings in the Parliament. The hearings were open to public and they were lead by politicians from our panel. Experts from the energy field have contributed to the hearings with knowledge and ideas upon the future. A solid hearing material and a short newsletter have been produced after each hearing.
The project has worked with scenario building on the future energy system in Denmark. The Scenarios describe different possible directions for the energy system in the future. We have set up two main quantitative targets for the scenarios:
- To reduce the use of oil in 2025 with 50% compared to the level of 2003
- To reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide in 2025 with 50% compared to the level of 1990.
We decided to focus on technology- based scenarios to obtain the objectives in the project. The scenarios then describe what kind of technological energy mix you can use to reach these main objectives.
After a seminar with the Politicians in our panel we where asked to describe a scenario that follows the main objectives in the project – reducing the oil demand and the emissions of carbon dioxide with 50 % – by combining a mix of energy savings and higher energy efficiency, using more wind power and other renewables and using electric- and hybrid vehicles and bio fuels.
The politicians were also concerned about a robust future energy supply situation with Denmark being independent of oil producing countries. And they were aware of the growing industrial potentials in the energy field in the near future.
There was a common wish from the involved politicians and the actors in the Steering group to work with ideas that would be regarded as a realistic – rather conservative – and still ambitious offers.
The politician asked for a concrete scenario, easy to communicate and suitable for further investigations.
How did we then build up the scenario work?
We sat up a working group with people from 4 different institutions with expertise in energy modelling and asked them to cooperate on building a new modelling tool to calculate and describe our scenario to meet the two main objectives – and the wishes from the Politicians.
The result should be a new flexible modelling tool, fit for further practical use – and not so complex as many other energy- modelling tools often are.
The modelling tool is free and available for the publicity and is now being used by research institutions and consultants. It is also a part of the education in courses on energy systems at least 3 Danish universities.
What was successful in the project – and why?
We have had a rather ambitious goal from the very beginning of the project – and a lot of possibilities to go into pitfalls. How can you keep the process on the right track and avoid that some of the many involved institutions and persons loose their interest in the project?
When we put this question to our Steering group they pointed out 5 main reasons
- The strong will to insist on an open and broad dialogue
- To cooperate in an interdisciplinary way
- There is a growing need of energy system thinking
- There is a need of broad communication on the complex energy system
- The fact that the involved persons – experts and politicians -got to know each other very well – and all of them profited from the project process.
There has been room for discussions, disagreements and new turnings in the process and a will to chase common ground.
The concrete scenario work and a new energy modelling tool have been a keystone in the project. There is now a great confidence in this tool and its usability. An important cause to that is the co- work between 4 important players in the field of energy planning and energy modelling.
The scenario work of the project has been used in negotiations in the Danish Parliament on a new energy strategy for Denmark. These negotiations ended a month ago with an agreement.
STOA – a follow up activity
DBT is currently conducting the project “Future energy systems in Europe in 2030” on behalf of STOA, the Scientific and Technological Options Assessment unit of the European Parliament. This work is based on the scenario work in the Danish project.
It deals with the question; how can EU goals on the environment and improved security of energy supply be fulfilled?
The project has two concrete goals – the same as in the Danish project:
- Reduction on CO2 emissions by 50% compared to the 1990-level
- Reducing oil consumption by 50% compared to the present level
The different characteristics, opportunities and priorities of the energy sector in different parts of Europe have been integrated in the energy scenarios for 5 archetypes of EU countries. These regional scenarios represent different conditions in existing energy sector and different opportunities to meet the objectives.
The project has conducted for the EU countries 27 technology scenarios for 2030. In these technology scenarios the key measures are
- More efficient energy use and energy savings
- More use of Renewable energy resources
We set up a debate in April involving about 20 MEP´s. The idea is to have a dialogue between experts and politicians. And we end up with a dissemination workshop in September.
What have we learnt from these projects?
The dialogue between experts and politicians may produce good results if you respect the need of an involving process. It is important to avoid ”one way communication”. And it is necessary to have frequently consultations within the process.
When you work with scenarios and energy modelling then – make it simple- try to produce an easy to understand interface but with a solid background – and make it flexible. We worked with a model that can conduct new analyses on the spot – at a meeting for example.
We also learnt that there is a growing understanding – among politicians and actors in the energy sector – of the need for long term energy considerations and guidelines – and of energy planning.
And the public debate about the energy future gets more and more important due to the many challenges with climate changes and the increasing energy and oil consumption – the oil prices are rising -and oil depletion is waiting ahead. Our dependency on oil and gas producing countries in political unstable areas in the world is a problem too.
The politicians are aware of these big challenges and they have some hard- core decisions to make about the energy future.
They may benefit from dialogues with the many actors in the energy sector.
At last I would like to highlight 4 important elements for a further debate
- The importance of a dialogue between politicians and experts – and a public debate on energy in the future
- Energy system thinking – focus on energy infrastructure
- Interaction between energy markets and frame conditions – energy planning
- The question about how to combine local and central energy production and – distributions in a robust future energy system?