Policy case studies for Energy Policy

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Policy case studies for Energy Policy

Narratives selected

Four narratives were selected from a total of 32 narratives (see the Definition Policy Case Studies Milestone report for more information).

Narrative A - Transition to renewable energies.

Europe needs to increase the share of renewable energy by using more solar and wind energy. This is environmentally necessary to fight climate change by reducing CO2 emissions and is socially and economically desirable.

Why was this narrative selected »

This narrative was recurrent in the interviews and was validated as important during the stakeholder consultation (“In line with the societal environmental & economic challenges of the EU Energy Policy,” feedback from EC officer).

Interest in this narrative is linked to the potential of renewables in mitigating climate change (“This is very much indeed a policy narrative, which comes out of a quite combined way of looking at energy and climate change,” (focus group), “The overarching goal for this one, I hope soon is to fight climate change and reduce the emissions overall,” (focus group). The nexus between energy and climate is central to this narrative, and very relevant to MAGIC.

Approach »

Assessment of the feasibility and viability of a transition to renewable energies

We use the social metabolism framework to analyse economic activities from a biophysical point of view, and to account for energy flows and emissions as a function of the economic process. Reductions of 80-95% of CO2 emissions by 2050 (EC target) require major changes to the metabolic pattern of complex socio-economic systems. Our system of accounting can be used to: (i) check how much technologies depend on fossil fuels, (ii) check limitations on the rate at which a transition to renewable energies would be possible, and (iii) check if the EU’s CO2 emission reduction target is feasible and viable.

Narrative B - Intermittency challenge.

Intermittency of supply is a key challenge limiting the greater use of solar and wind energy.More efficient storage systems are a key enabling technological innovation that will have to contribute to solving the problem of intermittency. The magnitude of the challenge for storage needs to be understood with reference to factors such as flexibility (e.g. in demand response) and bottle necks (e.g. in the transport sector).

Why was this narrative selected »

Technological solutions and technological bottlenecks were often mentioned in energy narratives, with regard to, for instance, electricity storage, electric vehicles and biofuels. ("There is also within the energy field a lot of talk on how do you integrate all this electricity, this renewable electricity, in the current systems … we see the most inertia in the transport sector," focus group). In the validation of narratives, the issue of intermittency was considered as a priority on its own ("The most effective and efficient storage solve bottlenecks related to share of the renewable energy sources. Therefore contributes to Europe needs to increase share of renewable energy sources,"feedback from EC officer).

One policy-maker also stressed the importance of demand response policies that can be used to use flexibilities in electricity demand. According to this narrative, intermittency ceases to be a challenge. We chose this narrative because it reveals some of the controversies and knowledge gaps in energy policy.

Approach »

Assessment of the challenges of integrating renewable energies in the electric grid

We have a procedure for the assessment of the electricity sector at different levels, which establishes a link between: (i) the supply – i.e. extraction or import of primary energy sources, (ii) generation of energy carriers – electricity, and (ii) the demand – the different end uses associated with the consumption of electricity. For storage technologies, we can assess: how much storage would be needed for different amounts of renewables in the grid, and what it would mean to install this kind of infrastructure. For flexibilities, we can assess: the extent to which specific functions of the economy can be attended to by different structural elements.

Narrative C - Energy efficiency narrative.

Energy efficiency is a means to achieve energy security and decarbonize the economy. Energy savings from efficiency have the potential of being the first fuel. However, past improvements in efficiency that have reduced unit costs of energy have been more than offset using new and more numerous devices.

Why was this narrative selected »

Efficiency was also recurrent in the interviews, policy documents and in the discussion of the focus group. ("The most important policy measure" (feedback from EC officer), "Energy efficiency is also a very powerful one and if we are aligned together by the joint objective, meaning getting emissions down" (focus group), "It says energy efficiency first and energy efficiency is an energy source in its own right" (focus group).

Although energy efficiency is clearly identified as a priority for energy security, the debate is often linked to the paradoxes of efficiency ("They have all become much more energy efficient, but we use all kinds of other devices on top of it and then we continue to/ to use as much energy as before" focus group) and to the difficulties in the implementation and monitoring of efficiency measures.

Approach »

Assessment of the role of efficiency in security of supply

This narrative highlights the complexity of the EU energy system, and the possible paradoxes and rebounds that may derive from increases in efficiency. Is efficiency an outcome of processes or a direct target for regulation? We can (1) use MuSIASEM to provide an assessment of the quality of efficiency indicators and data availability for energy efficiency, (2) open up debate on how efficiency is conceptualised. The term efficiency is used as a narrative to justify values such as energy security.

Narrative D - Outsourcing challenge.

Outsourcing leads to the externalisation of productive activities and their associated environmental impacts. In making and assessing energy policy, these macroeconomic dynamics need to be considered. If industrial production is outsourced to China and other countries, GHG emissions are not reduced but just geographically relocated.

Why was this narrative selected »

During the interviews and the focus group, policy-makers recurrently mentioned global economic and market pressures and expressed interest in the potential of MAGIC approach to analyse the relation between the sustainability of EU energy use and the outsourcing of industrial and agricultural production to China and Latin America. ("You hinted at what is the elephant in the room. It’s the under, the macroeconomy underneath it all. It’s the elephant in the room, which nobody really tackles because this is the holy grail." (focus group).

Approach »

Assessment of the impacts of outsourcing

MAGIC can examine two arguments. Firstly, we can examine whether the EU can decouple its economic growth from energy consumption. Secondly, we can examine whether the EU can meet its targets for emission reduction without outsourcing energy-, and other resources, intensive activities. Both of these issues can be analysed in MAGIC by examining the “metabolic pattern” of EU economies and the consequential pressures placed on natural and human capital, in and beyond the EU.

For more information:


Download the "Definition Policy Case Studies" Milestone report