Years Active: 2014-2019

Energy systems are complex, and their development is the outcome of decisions by a wide range of actors at multiple scales. These range from decisions by households to buy particular appliances or cars and invest in energy efficiency measures to decisions by large multi-nationals to invest in particular power plant technologies. They also include decisions that contribute to the development, implementation and revision of government policy and corporate decisions that determine and implement business strategies.

Furthermore, future energy systems pose new decision challenges. They will need to operate under the constraints imposed by environmental limits, and to provide energy services reliably for critical social and technical systems. Energy systems increasingly dependent on variable natural resources will face challenges in ‘system balancing’, potentially requiring new responses. These challenges imply the need for better understanding of energy systems’ interactions with both natural systems (e.g. food and natural ecosystems) and other infrastructures (e.g. transport and water).

The Challenges in Energy System Decision-Making programme is comprised of three distinct but interconnected themes:

  1. Governance and key challenges at the system level: analysing the interactions of system-level decisions and those of distributed actors, including through use of methods for appraising and making decisions in complex systems.
  2. Key challenges in understanding actor decision-making: improving our understanding of how distributed actor decisions impact on energy systems, through routine practices, investment decisions and in system balancing.
  3. Systemic interactions: exploring key interactions of decision-making in energy systems with other natural and infrastructure systems.

The combination of the three themes provides an innovative approach to studying whole systems decision-making by studying the crucial interplay of decision-making by those actors who have responsibility for the national energy system, but also by distributed actors within that system and by actors in other related systems.