Developing participatory methods in energy system modelling and planning

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McGookin, Connor
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This thesis seeks to advance the use of participatory methods in energy system modelling and planning. The necessity for such an approach is threefold: firstly to improve energy system models by placing them in a broader societal context, secondly to facilitate a fair decision-making process in the formation of critical public policy, and finally, to move from climate policy ambition to climate action. As a transdisciplinary exploration, this thesis is embedded within a regional sustainability project on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland’s south west entitled ‘Corca Dhuibhne 2030 / Dingle Peninsula 2030’. Working within the context of a rural peripheral region presented an interesting challenge from an energy system modelling perspective and provided valuable learnings on real-world transition processes. The thesis also pays particular attention to the value of building an understanding of the societal context within which the energy system will be placed. The combination of statistical data and lived experience offers a rich insight into the area. Over the course of the thesis two useful energy system modelling methods were developed. Firstly, developing and applying a new method for determining energy related CO2 emissions at a sub-national level and secondly, understanding and advancing the meaningful integration of participatory methods in energy system modelling. The results of this thesis demonstrate the challenges associated with aligning national policy decarbonisation objectives with the needs of rural communities. This highlights the clear need to have honest dialogue at local level about possible futures and the co-benefits and trade-offs. The contributions of this thesis reach across science, policy and society with learnings covering: trade-offs between participatory action research and energy system modelling, value of working across disciplines and with a diverse group of stakeholders, developing the concept of the honest researcher, which can support an enhanced role for local authorities in delivering climate action. The thesis developed a method to determine a regional emissions profile and approach for scenario analysis bridging participatory methods and energy system modelling. It concludes with a number of interesting areas for further investigation to strengthen the contribution of energy system models to more collaborative forms of deliberation throughout the various policy levels, which may support the radical societal transformation needed.
Energy system modelling , Public participation , Transdisciplinary , Local energy planning , Climate action
McGookin, C. 2022. Developing participatory methods in energy system modelling and planning. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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