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Innovation pathways, strategies and policies for the Low-Carbon Transition in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INNOPATHS (Innovation pathways, strategies and policies for the Low-Carbon Transition in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-11-30

The Paris Agreement substantially increased the need for countries and regions to understand the full economic, social, energy and environmental implications of the deep decarbonisation to which the global community is now committed. The EU has long had decarbonisation ambitions, but there remains considerable uncertainty as to precisely how these ambitions will be achieved by 2030 and 2050, or what the impacts of such achievement will be on the EU economy and society more generally. INNOPATHS will resolve this uncertainty to the extent possible, will characterise and provide a quantification of the uncertainty which remains, and will describe in great detail a number of possible low-carbon transition pathways for the EU, together with the economic, social and environmental impacts to which they are likely to lead.

INNOPATHS has five key objectives:

1. Understand the challenges of decarbonisation and the innovation needed to address them
2. Present a detailed assessment of low-carbon technologies, their uncertainties, future prospects and system characteristics
3. Propose policy and innovation system reforms that will help the EU and member states meet their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets
4. Create new, co-designed deep decarbonisation pathways with novel representation of policy and innovation processes for low-carbon technology development
5. Make clear the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the low-carbon transition and how they can be managed.
Substantial advances have been made by the INNOPATHS consortium since the project began in December 2016, on a number of fronts. An important output from the INNOPATHS project is a series of four interactive online tools. These tools aim to provide policy makers, business, civil society and researchers with insights into the characteristics of the technologies, policies and pathways that may be employed to deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement in the EU.

The first tool is the ‘Technology Matrix Tool’ (TMT), which is designed to provide users with systematic, transparent and comparable historic values and future estimates of the cost and other key technical and environmental characteristics of important low-carbon technologies across the power, transport and industry sectors. The second tool is the ‘Decarbonisation Policy Evaluation Tool’ (DPET), which is designed to allow stakeholders to easily access and interpret information from a systematic review of the evidence of the various impacts of different types of policy instruments that may be employed toencourage the low-carbon transition in different sectors. The work that produced the data presented in these two tools, along with extensive stakeholder consultation to ensure functionality and usability of the online interfaces, is complete, and the tools finalised. Both will shortly become available to the public, once journal papers outlining key elements of their methodologies have been published.

The third Tool is the Energy System Decarbonisation Simulator (ESDS), which allows users to produce their own decarbonisation pathways in order to understand the implications and trade-offs of different technology and policy options in different sectors, for each European Union Member State. The ESDS tool includes a comprehensive energy system model available in real-time through an online interface, which can be operated according to parameters defined by the user to develop alternative decarbonisation scenarios. The ESDS tool is also nearing completion, and will be available to the public in the coming months.

The fourth and final tool is the Low Carbon Pathways Platform (LCPP), which aims to allow stakeholders to examine, in detail, the range of outcomes implied by the EU low-carbon transition scenarios being produced by the INNOPATHS team. A prototype of the tool has been developed, and work to create the scenarios and analyse outcomes is ongoing

The INNOPATHS scenarios are first and foremost informed by ‘narratives’, descriptive outlines of possible decarbonisation pathways to 2050, co-designed with stakeholders through two dedicated workshops. These narratives were then translated into quantitative scenarios for use in a series of integrated assessment models used to assess their implications. Both the scenarios and the models themselves have been expanded, improved and refined based on various results produced by the project, including those presented by the TMT and the DPET, the dynamics of technology innovation and diffusion according to past experience, regional and skills-based differences in employment, distributional and other justice-related impacts of energy system transitions, international competitiveness, the role of and interaction between different policy instruments (particularly in encouraging innovation), and the role of the finance sector.

These refinements will allow, over the coming months, the generation of detailed insights into the implications of these scenarios – from detailed sectoral outcomes, to the quantification of social and macroeconomic consequences. These results will then be uploaded to the LCPP, which when made available towards the end of the project, will complete the set of four online tools that will form a major legacy of the INNOPATHS project.

INNOPATHS research has been presented in more than 48 instances at workshops and 87 instances at conferences, and published in 42 academic journal articles over the first three years of the project. INNOPATHS researchers are also involved in a number of research projects and international scientific assessments, including IPCC AR6. Over the final year of the project a wide range of activities are planned to disseminate and promote the tools and the wider set of insights produced by the research, including a number of additional academic journal articles, dedicated national and sector-based events, joint events with related projects, a final conference, online films, and Policy Briefs.
INNOPATHS is fostering the design and implementation of a cost-effective transition to a low-carbon economy in Europe by 2050, through a deep examination of the potential technologies, policies, actors, and processes that may act and be employed together to overcome both the technical and non-technical barriers, and to exploit the opportunities that arise, from such a transition. The project is advancing the state of the art in a range of fields, including in macroeconomic and energy system modelling, the role of the finance sector, innovation dynamics and processes, and the impacts of policies and policy mixes. A key output from INNOPATHS is a series of four interactive online information and decision support tools that collates and presents much of these insights for use by policy makers, business, researchers, and civil society.