Cite as: Renner A & Giampietro M 2020, 'Socio-technical discourses of European electricity decarbonization: Contesting narrative credibility and legitimacy with quantitative story-telling', Energy Research & Social Science, vol. 59, article 101279. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2019.101279.
Open access: The article is available in gold open access and deposited in Zenodo. First published online on 27 September 2019.
Abstract: This paper presents an innovative approach to the responsible use of quantitative analysis when dealing with the governance of sustainability. Rather than using complicated models which try to predict and control the future evolution of complex adaptive systems, quantitative story-telling is proposed to check, first of all, the plausibility of proposed policies. As a case study, we check the plausibility of ‘a radical decarbonization of the European economy based on a quick deployment of alternative sources of electrical energy generation’. Although our case study includes a high-level set of quantitative results, it is primarily methodological. The procedure of quantitative story-telling includes: (1) identification of the narratives used to inform policy; (2) identification of the relevant factors determining the feasibility, viability and desirability of expected results; (3) a quantitative analysis which falsifies at least one of these three factors, indicating an implausibility of the expected results; and (4) identification of knowledge gaps in the existing discussions over the issue. The modern European energy system does need an urgent and radical transformation. However, before imposing drastic and ambitious policies, it is essential to check the quality of the diagnosis. Our analysis flags the existence of a few reasons for concern with regard to the current story-telling.