Futuribles Journal n° 398

Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement

Energy Foresight: the Possible, the Desirable and the Acceptable

In France a debate on energy transition began in late 2012 and went on for almost eight months. Various consultations with the major players and the general public were involved. The aim was to produce recommendations for an energy bill in autumn 2013, but, because the participants could not come to any agreement, it was simply a summary of these debates that was submitted to the government in July 2013. With each party holding fast to its position, the process has come to a standstill. The drafting of the bill has been deferred to spring 2014, the intention being to present it to Parliament in the autumn and for it to be passed before the end of the year. Among the points listed in this summary is a proposal for restarting the process by “carrying out a shared foresight exercise, informed by macro-economic scenarios for France and Europe, microeconomic modelling and multi-criteria studies drawing on the partnership methods of the General Commission for Strategy and Foresight”.

This is an important point since, in this type of debate, aimed at providing long-term orientation for French energy policy, the contribution of foresight studies is key. Nevertheless, as is shown by this article, a product of the PROSPER foresight network and its thinking, foresight exercises on energy matters, torn as they are between quantitative methods and qualitative approaches often tinged with subjectivity, have difficulty convincing decision-makers or leading to political measures or strategies that can garner a minimum degree of assent. Yet what is at issue here is necessarily finding some accommodation between quantitative and qualitative approaches, overcoming obstacles produced by mutual misunderstanding on the part of supporters of those two approaches and seeking compromises between actors with very different points of view. In this connection, as this article shows, three quite recent energy foresight exercises have striven, with encouraging results, to reconcile the qualitative and the quantitative so as to develop scenarios that are both relevant and acceptable to the different actors concerned. David et al. outline the main characteristics of these studies and the lessons to be drawn from them with a view to developing a foresight exercise that enough people can get behind and that is likely to produce a scenario acceptable to a majority.

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