The use of foresight in energy policy

Authored by: Erik Laes

Routledge Handbook of Energy Economics

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138208254
eBook ISBN: 9781315459653
Adobe ISBN:


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The main aim of this chapter is to provide guidance for setting up foresight exercises as a platform for discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of energy futures with a broad range of stakeholders. At the same time, we explore conditions that might enhance the resonance of such foresight exercises in the policy sphere. The chapter starts from a fundamental paradox in foresight studies. On the one hand, foresight falls beyond the domain of ‘traditional science’, since the results of foresight exercises cannot be tested empirically against ‘hard facts’. However, on the other hand, the organizations funding such exercises of course do this with the aim to improve their knowledge about the future, in view of making ‘better decisions’ or at least stimulating a discussion and/or creating awareness for the goals and problem definition(s) that the organizations have set for themselves. Therefore, the question is: ‘How can we assess the quality of knowledge embedded in foresight exercises and its implications for policy making?’ Starting from this central question, we first introduce constructivism as a philosophical framework. Next, we give a constructivist reading of scientific foresight as a combined scientific-political practice and point out some of the main points of interest regarding the relationship between foresight knowledge and policy. Finally, we draw upon our theoretical and case-study research to propose a methodology for developing long-term energy scenarios, and we give some practical recommendations on using long-term energy foresight exercises as a platform for communication with wider audiences.

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