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Workshop: Energy scenarios and public debate.
Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 20 rue Berbier-du-Mets.

duchess1/24 – Paris epilogue: I had the pleasure of sharing afternoon tea with historian of Soviet cybernetics, Dr. Egle Rindzeviciute, currently Researcher, SciencesPo, Centre d’études européennes. Dr. Rindzeviciute has an impressive resume, as one would expect at such meetings and occasions.

By comparison, our discussion was quite modest.

I inquired and, in fact, learned, for example, that there are no princesses in Lithuania, the country from where Egle – if I may be so bold as to suggest we are on a first name basis- hails.

But. There are other such titles in Lithuania, for example, the title duchess, a point, we agreed, that is worth remembering when she decides to travel to California. Another area that we have in common – other than our fascination for Baltic royalty, namely — is that both Egle and I order –what other persons order when we go out to eat. But here, we have our different reasons.

In my case, as readers are well aware, I want to feel what the other person is eating. On this point, Egle proved to explain herself one better, suggesting that locals tend to have a good sense of what is on the menu.


Well, it was from Egle’s question yesterday, at the energy scenarios workshop, inquiring into the role of interested parties, specifically, wanting to know more of about the role of utility companies in determining policy outcomes over attempts by the German government to mothball their country’s nuclear electricity plants, that I took an interest in who Egle is (or perhaps it was a question concerning “efforts of pro-nuclear lobbyists that represent[] the nuclear industries, not utility companies” [?]).

In any case, certainly, a government-taking of private investments, especially on nuclear, long considered cash machines in the United States because of their long-term operability, is an interesting question, especially in the context of discussions focused, as they were yesterday, primarily on issues of demand and fuel switching.

That was my pretext, at any rate, for an introduction to Egle.
Actually, Egle is participant to one of the European Research Council (ERC) funded proposals that I had my eye on while reviewing the relevance of previous ERC projects to my own proposal.

The title, A Political History of the Future : Knowledge Production and Future Governance 1945-2010, or simply, FUTUREPOL.

Of course, the title caught my eye instantly.
Previously, I had run a conference seminar titled “Histories of the Future”, probably having done so in recognition of Reinhart Koselleck‘s Future’s Past.

Here, Futurepol examines knowledge of what can be known about governing the future, how the future is drawn into the present as an object of governance. Interesting stuff.

Over tea, I blathered to Egel of what I do. I blathered so much, that Egle referred to me as Mr. Energy Seminar, in honor of my passionate description of studying how folks get together to talk about energy.

I was a little embarrassed, but not much.
Speaking of which, I pointed out that one of the things I learned yesterday, was the phrase: energiewende, which means energy transition in German.

“Wende” or the wende part in that word, means something more like “turn around” or “switch” and the entire phrase was coined in 1980, by Florentin Krausse who conducts just such a report, on energiewende, while associated with a small alternative energy development think tank called Öko-Institute.

This discussion, in fact, was part of a larger theme of studying expertise as an integral part of the policy process, which typically focuses on agendas and the policy cycle.

Recently PhD minted Stefan C. Aykut, Université Marne-la-Vallée et IFRIS, one of the organizers of the seminar, provided an excellent introduction, including a genealogy of the rising importance of energiewende in German discourse, to the status that it enjoys today – where it is quite nearly impossible to have a debate about energy in Germany, without discussion of energy transition.

I should point out, that what caught my attention also, was the issue of energiewende itself, that within the context of this particulate meeting, we would develop an interest and discussion about this phrase, tying it to a previous historical context of American discourse surrounding soft paths, or distributed energy systems promoted by Amory Lovins, but also as was explained to me by political scientist, Luz Mez, of Freie Universität Berlin, the term wende in energiewende derives, actually, from Sailing, where it is used as a term of art in referring to the correct manner for turning a sail boat around.

In fact, as Dr. Luz pointed out, rather enthusiastically, to my delight and increasing attention, that another German term wälze (sp.?) -or something to that effect, refers to the wrong way to turn a sail boat around. stew

But here, I made a mistake, and did not ask him whether the term energywälze is in use.

Oh well. We can get to that later.

Did I mention something about food yet?

I should like to remind readers that food is always a big deal everywhere I go. Not to digress, but eating provides such a break in the context of interaction. It is a ritual occasion that completely redesigns all events.

We know this anthropologically from W.R. Smith‘s Religion of the Semites, especially his famous quote concerning with whom you dine determines who considers you family.
As a matter of fact, I want to take a moment to thank workshop co-organizer, Amy Dahan, Centre Alexandre Koyré, CNRS, for including me in a wonderful dinner at Le Buisson Ardent, located opposite the campus of the university, of which I do not know, but I can tell you, that the restaurant was hopping with academics, including ourselves.

In addition to Stefan, Amy and Lutz, we were also joined at dinner by Jürgen Schmid, Director, Fraunhofer Institute for Winder Energy, and his lovely wife, whose name, forgive me, escapes my memory.

1/24: Attending workshop: Energy scenarios, public debate and ecological transition in Europe, Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique at Institut des Sciences de la Communication, 20 rue Berbier-du-Mets.

I learned of the meeting from my ERC team buddy Kathrine Tveiterås, of U Tromsø, and decided to blow down from Oslo, to check out the scene. The meeting is taking place right this moment! In a seminar room, there are about 23 people, which is quite a lot for this kind of academic gathering talking, about energy futures.

I actually walked here yesterday from my hotel, just in case I could not find a taxi this morning. I always want to be prepared in advance.

Amy Dahan, Centre Alexandre Koyré, CNRS, co-organizer, now commenting on a talk given by Arthur Petersen, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and noting that in France there is a lot of discussion at the public level about futures and scenarios of environment and energy production. Arthur P. responds by stating that political discussion at the level of intellectual debate in the Netherlands is perhaps lower than other countries that he knows of.

streetNow we have political scientist, Lutz Mez, comparing France, Netherlands, Germany, in which France is the most central, Germany a federal state struggling with the past and a dominant nuclear industry with engineers as part of a cartel.

Well, I must admit, I have started this blog a little late, in part because I did not know there was an internet connection, but we are going to break for lunch at this moment, and I will return with all the details from the morning. I am hungry!


setting upWow. That was delicious. I took a lot of photos of lunch. I always focus on food. Okay. I have a few things to say about the morning program, but let us go straight to what is going on right this moment.

I am very much looking forward to this talk, titled Energy Debates and Controversies as a Field of Research, by Arthur Jobert, sociologist, EDF R&D.

Three issues: Exploration (the work of social actors investigating the issue); Sites (where the discussion takes place); Devices (mechanisms, technical, political, scientific rules).

spreading the foodThis is interesting. How can I relate this, well, Dr. Jobert is walking through a genealogy of energy debates and subjects of controversy since the 1970s, and categorizing them in terms of the three issues I just noted above, Exploration, Sites, Devices.

He has a little graph posted up on the wall and talking about shifts in discourse, for example in debates, from energy to environment, and even identifying the duration of debate as well as the institutional form, which is what I consider interesting indeed.

food opening the wineEssentially, he retains the structural political form of the debate, and he says, the “more we go, the more ambitious we become about the rules of debate,” a sign, he suggests that it is becoming more difficult to have public discussions over energy development. That makes sense.

I should add, by way of parenthesis, that Dr. Jobert has taken an interest in my little internet site, and that means another reader for the paparazzi-ethnographic blog!

Reflection on design of current debate:

pouring the wineFor a debate to be “felicitous” (a word drawn from John Austin’s performatives), the public must participate as a precondition, must be national and local, and there is discussion in scenarios about both consumption and production.

What else. Well, the governments in debates are as large and pluralist as possible, and must result or lead to governmental measures, meaning? Perhaps a form for state craft and legitimacy — the opening the box on the one hand, and delivering policy measures on the other hand.

my foodThis is interesting- devices: how political and scientific representations of the public occur. Basically there are two type of devices to present the public, science and politics. Politics would be mobilizing through demonstration, petition, while science is argumentative, through logics of clarity and seriousness.

Surveying the articulation of different debates, on line, public meetings. More.

Next presentation: David Bernard, from Atomic energy. Well, David is speaking in French, so that is bad for me. But his slides are in English, so there is some consolation there. Nope, the slides shifted back to French. Well, that will give me an opportunity to talk a little bit about what was going on this morning.

break/procrastination. One item mentioned is that the current generation would be responsible for the energy transition, which means covering the cost of bringing down the costs of renewables, as well as the takings involved with shutting down industries, and that we would rely on debt to pay for it all.

participants Okay, my notes from this morning. Just a few editorial comments before I begin: The workshop rightly notes that the turn to studying expertise as an integral part of the policy process including agendas and the policy cycle has arrived. But what we did not discuss is why. My own sense is that if we go back 25 years, what we would be talking about instead of expectation and expertise — is legislation and review. With restructuring, new actors emerge that reframe policy circles and agenda setting from without. Okay. Let me begin, these are just unadulterated notes from the morning opening:

In Paris, Amy Dahan introduced the energy scenarios workshop by stating the project began last year from a look at methodologies of IPCCC 5th report of scenarios and from discussing a comparison between Germany and France on energy scenarios, by Stephan Aykut, then a PhD student, now postdoc and soon to be a permanent researcher at Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique.

scenariosStephan began with an introduction about his comparison between the two countries and specifically, the energetic turn in Germany. He spoke of utopian scenarios as an ongoing occurrence now in Germany and the French President launched initiatives of energy debates from January to June before new decisions. There was a limited introduction of participants in the room by Amy, including myself, in which I appear named as working for the European Union on energy issues.

Stephan mentioned the need to examine how society projects itself in the future and how these debates are constructed in the present and then introduced the various speakers of the day and that there would be a lunch, here, in the room, as well as time to discuss the topics in an easy way.

bottlesStephan then began more formally, by stating that climate policy is a new policy field in a different context — and that the emergence of climate policy is closely linked to energy policy. The energy system is a major emitter, path dependencies in the policy field reflect political choices –

He turned to the topic of energy scenarios in public debate. We are in a special moment, he pointed out, that many different questions are pressing today, putting energy policy more at the forefront. Catastrophe of Fukushima, global climate policy, emerging economies putting pressure on International energy relations, the whole discussion on shale oil and shale gas (which he called “tight” oil and gas).

energywendeHis first observation: despite all these challenges, there are advances, climate energy package, Lisbon treaty, Europe struggles to speak with one voice on energy perspectives.

The Workshop: organized to confront energy debates in different countries. More than ten years after the initial phase out decision, to rely increasingly on renewables in Germany, and two years after the re-affirmation of this decision.

First conclusions (key to the workshop): Distinguished German experts here today – the German example is discussed very emotionally here. Put in perspective because it plays an important role.

Question – energy field as processes of internationalization, markets increasingly integrated and actors in the energy field, and risks, and different government regimes, an environment that cross borders, and even yet, there are still national priorities that exist. Why is that?

shellAt the theoretical level, one of the aims of the workshop- energy policy in the social sciences, we often enter the subject through interests, geography, actors, perspectives – here, we are looking at it through the knowledge perspective. How can we understand energy through the scenarios perspective.

graphsWhat are scenarios?

They have history, emerged after WW2, the Rand corporation and the French planning state. They begin to play an important role after the 1970s energy crisis and nuclear. The necessity to think the long term because of the reliance on importation of oil, so important for political actors to take a longer view.

Based on future energy demand, prices, social constraints of environment. Why scenarios are important – because they inform politicos on policy options, provide investment decisions to economic actors, and for NGOs a position for civil society to take a stance.

States of enactment, global energy futures – studying the way societies project themselves into the future. They are knowledge based as well as political, because they reflect value choices, but also based on expertise, geographers economists, — more general trend in social sciences to be based on expertise.

The turn to studying expertise as an integral part of the policy process including agendas and the policy cycle [a key phrase]

signPolicy narratives are policy choices that are causal narratives and that is where expertise comes into play, creating a causal chain where things happen, construct a temporal order – foresight gains new status, because the present is evaluated against apocalyptic and utopian scenarios, makes decisions important today, because “if we don’t do this, — this and this will happen“.

One or two examples. First example: Germany:

PEKStephan begins with a graph of google scholar of “energiewende” – German word for energy transition (energy turn around, or energy switch).

It emerges in 1980 as a result of a report, based on a book published in 1977 soft energy path by Amory Lovins, which begins a whole discussion on distributed energy. Established a scenario on limited growth, solar, and limited nuclear – the first report.

Not taken seriously by the energy community, but certainly by activists. Talking about a climate commission in the 1980s. Referring to a policy side and a doctoral side – parliamentary debate consists of political and academic expertise.
3 scenarios. Look at the slide above. 3 PEK scenarios. Different policy options, they inculcate different cosmologies or different narratives – reduction and phase out after 1995. Energiewende becomes hegemonic in energy scenarios in Germany.

factor fourNext example: French. Factor four. Important book on energy savings and efficiency [this section does not make much sense to me, as much as the German example].

In all scenarios – energy consumption increases considerably, almost a doubling of consumption, and the share of nuclear is stable or increases. Ambiguity of scenarios—policy tools that can open debate and grant legitimacy to marginal knowledge, but it can also close debate, by being based on expertise.

energy wendsI asked the question of how Stephan gets to the word hegemonic.

He responded that it is not scenarios that become hegemonic, but a certain way of framing ideas in energy policy, energy transition, that become important discourses throughout policy in all general levels.

The general level is hegemonic in that it becomes a common force for all thoughts about energy debate.

Two case studies are used in order to show what functions scenarios can play and what opposite functions. From marginality to becoming important in Germany – appropriating expert knowledge in Germany by Greenies, and being able to speak in expert language. In France, how scenario-making can become a force of expert knowledge and inscribe path dependencies and then discard alternative options.

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