Integrating Social Practices in Energy Models

09 October 2019
DG RTD, CDMA Building, Brussels

Integrating Social Practices in Energy Models | October 9th, 2019 | DG RTD, Brussels |

The focus group 'Integrating Social Practices in Energy Models ' formed part of the 2019 conference of the Energy Modelling Platform for Europe (EMP-E 2019): 'Modelling the implementation of A Clean Planet For All Strategy', and took place on Wednesday, 09 October 2019, in Brussels.

Its objective was to discuss how energy models deal with agency and social structures dynamics (see program). The discussion was fostered by the results of two Horizon2020 projects, MAGIC and MEDEAS, on how to study agency of individuals and institutions shaping human behaviour and social practices. Following two priming presentations by Raúl Velasco Fernández (MAGIC—Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and invited speaker Wander Jager (University of Groningen, NL) on the challenges of introducing individual agency and the role of institutions defining social practices in energy models, the focus group took the form of a world café: three twenty-minute rounds of small group conversation around three tables. Each table was presented with a specific set of questions (primers) around one of the following three topics (table threads):

  • The challenge of modelling agency and social dynamics in energy models. How are agency and social dynamics dealt with in existing models? What are the pros and cons of available methods? What is the relation between social practices and energy uses? What are the main problems encountered in modelling agency across levels and scales in energy models?  (Table host: Wander Jager)
  • Alternative methods for studying agency and social practices in energy models. How are social practices and technology related in energy models? How to represent institutional and regulatory constraints over human agency? How to integrate non-equivalent representations of patterns of human activity across levels and scales? How to handle the different effects of upward and downward causation in complex adaptive systems? Can we imagine improvements or synergies among the different methods? (Table host: Mario Giampietro)

  • Governance implications of agency and social dynamics in energy model outcomes. What are the political implications of considering (or not) agency and social practise in energy models? How do we handle 'black boxes' in modelling and what are their political implications? How can we leave the social issue open in energy modelling for policy advise to avoid an exclusive technocentric focus? (Table host: Raúl Velasco Fernández)

The outcomes of the world café discussion have been summarized in the minutes, which can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. They have been organized as follows: 

  • Identification of common challenges and problems when addressing agency and social dynamics in energy models.
  • Possible solutions for a better analysis of agency and institutional effects in energy models.
  • Suggestions for improving the policy relevance of energy modelling outcomes and avoiding the attractor of technocentric governance (implications for governance).

If you would like to receive more information on the outcomes of this focus group, please contact Raúl Velasco Fernández:




DG RTD, CDMA Building, Brussels

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