Deliberative energy policymaking for transitions

The socio-technical transitions perspective developed in this chapter emphasises that structural transformation of energy systems will require changes in markets, institutions, policies, technologies, behaviour and culture. Government policies alone cannot bring about such changes, especially not through expert-led, technocratic policymaking processes. Encouraging system-wide changes requires engagement with stakeholders across society, as it is clear that socio-technical systems cannot be steered 'from above' in democratic societies. Aligning agendas and expectations of various societal actors is therefore vital for the necessary transitions.

In conclusion, governments should promote deliberative processes in energy policymaking, notably through visioning exercises, scenario planning and institutionalised learning. CBA and expert-led forecasting and modelling exercises are two among many possible methods to inform policymaking, suited to situations of low uncertainty and high consensus on values and worldviews, when all participants have agreed that such a limited framing is appropriate. Major decision making processes for sustainable energy transitions are typically highly uncertain, and lack a consensus on values. Deliberative processes are vitally important under such conditions to arrive at legitimate policies, and to win support for wider changes in society.

To ensure that stakeholders are motivated to participate, efforts should be made to integrate deliberative processes into formal decision-making procedures. While 'brainstorming' exercises and experimental uses of deliberation have their value, the long-run viability of deliberative approaches requires that stakeholders feel assured that their input will be taken seriously and will make an impact in real political processes.

Learning and experimentation are essential for successful energy transitions. This means nurturing a 'learning culture' that tolerates failures, accepting them as inevitable and as an opportunity to learn. It will be particularly challenging to reconcile this approach with today's prevailing 'target culture', and with the use of policy targets to provide accountability. Policymakers and other stakeholders should not be held accountable simply for delivering quantified emissions reduction targets, but also for their commitment to continuous learning and improvement. To promote a culture of trust which fosters experiments and allows for mistakes, governments should show leadership in demonstrating not only their capacity to deliver on their own promises, but above all, in openly recognising their own failures.

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