Effects of exemplar scenarios on public preferences for energy futures using the my2050 scenario-building tool


Understanding which energy future configurations provide publicly acceptable levels of energy security, affordability, and environmental protection is critical for institutional decision-making. However, little is known about how scenarios influence energy preferences. Here we present nationally representative UK data on public preferences for energy futures using the my2050 scenario-building tool that encourages engagement with the holistic complexities of system change. Engagement with the tool strengthened existing preferences for renewable energy and intentions to take personal action. Importantly, patterns of energy preferences were influenced by exemplar scenarios, which served as reference points that anchored choices. Carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, biofuels, and changes to heating and travel were particularly impacted by scenarios indicating uncertainty and ambivalence regarding these options. Scenarios (and scenario-building tools) are valuable for engaging citizens about future energy systems. However, care is required in their design and interpretation to reach robust conclusions about underlying preferences and acceptance.

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Figure 1: Screenshot of the my2050 tool.
Figure 2: Responses to the my2050 tool.
Figure 3: Responses to the three versions of the my2050 tool.


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This research formed part of the programme of the UK Energy Research Centre and was supported by the UK Research Councils (NE/I006753/1 and EP/L024756/1). Additional support was received from the Welsh Government, the Leverhulme Trust (F/00 407/AG), and for A. Spence from Horizon Digital Economy Research EPSRC grant (EP/M02315X/1). The research team would also like to thank the project advisory panel.

Author information

C.D. led the design of the research, conducted data collection, performed the analysis and drafted the manuscript. A.S. and N.P. significantly contributed to the design of the study, discussion of the data analysis and writing of the manuscript.

Correspondence to Christina Demski.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–3, Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary Tables 1–6, Supplementary References (PDF 477 kb)

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Demski, C., Spence, A. & Pidgeon, N. Effects of exemplar scenarios on public preferences for energy futures using the my2050 scenario-building tool. Nat Energy 2, 17027 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nenergy.2017.27

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