Performing Energy Policy. Reconsidering the Role of Energy Forecasts in Policy-Making

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 6A P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Stefan AYKUT, LISIS (INRA / UPEM / CNRS), France
Recent debates about the necessity for a transformation of the global energy system (WBGU, 2003, Rifkin, 2011), as well as ongoing energy transitions on the national and subnational levels, have brought the role of forecasts in energy policy-making to the fore. Indeed, energy modeling and the scenarios they produce play a key role in discussions about the objectives and instruments of energy policy. While such debates have historically concentrated on the “knowability” of the future (e.g. Polak, 1973), as well as on the way such futures are constructed and the need for more inclusive approaches (Raimond, 1996), they have recently aimed at understanding the social, historical and cultural context in which such futures are embedded and in which they come to be enacted (Jameson, 2005, Appadurai, 2013, Andersson et Rindzevičiūtė, 2015), or turned to a “hermeneutics” of future-making practices (Grunwald 2014). We aim to complement such approaches by a performative approach (Callon 2007) attentive to the ways in which models and scenarios format and construct the social reality that they claim to represent.

Empirically, my proposal builds on a historical study on the use of forecasts and modeling in German and French energy policy and debate. I aim to show that the emergence of energy modeling is intimately related to the emergence of “energy policy” as a new field of public policy. The focus on the performative function of energy modeling also allows for a new understanding of sociotechnical controversies on energy policy. These are analyzed as “struggles of representation”, in which new actors and their problem-framings seek epistemic representation in energy models and political representation in the institutions of energy policy-making. Finally, I discuss the implications of such an approach for analyzing processes of institutional change in energy policy, as well as ongoing debates on energy transitions.