Moving towards socio-technical scenarios of the German energy transition—lessons learned from integrated energy scenario building


Energy scenarios describing transition pathways towards low-emission energy systems are commonly used to design mitigation strategies. There is a growing awareness in the research community that energy transitions should be understood as socio-technical transitions and that energy scenario construction should reflect this fact. This paper presents an application of a socio-technical scenario building method for improving long-term scenarios and strategies for the energy transition in Germany. Developing integrated scenarios on a national level starts with employing the cross impact balancing (CIB) approach for identifying consistent societal scenarios. As a first step, relevant context factors are selected and defined (39 descriptors and alternative future developments). Interviews with experts are used to develop a qualitative impact network for the CIB. The resulting context scenarios are then transferred to quantitative energy scenarios by using two different energy models that account for energy demand and supply structures for Germany. A final evaluation focuses on primary energy demand, renewable energy shares, and direct energy-related CO2 emissions. The approach integrates statements of societal and energy model experts and results in an interdisciplinary knowledge integration. This in turn provides insight into the method’s capacity to improve the consistency of energy scenarios and to identify potential societal risks related to the energy transition process.

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  1. 1.

    CIB formalizes the notion of the “internal consistency” of a scenario by requiring that for each descriptor precisely the development should be assumed which receives the maximum promotion from the combined impacts of the other descriptors (cf. Weimer-Jehle et al. 2019 of this Special Issue for further information).

  2. 2.

    see also (last accessed July 2018)

  3. 3.

    see e.g., (last accessed July 2018)

  4. 4.

    Experts were informed after the survey if their opinion strongly differs from the other experts’ opinions. They were provided with the divergent opinions and arguments, and they had the opportunity to reconsider their statements. This either led to convergence or to the clarification of the dissent.

  5. 5.

    This analysis can also be conducted for average weights. Maximum weights were used to address the nature of risks as potential damages.


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This research was conducted as part of the ENERGY-TRANS research alliance ( The authors are also grateful to all experts who participated in the surveys and interviews and who shared their knowledge and insights. Furthermore, we would like to thank Christian D. León and Ricarda Scheele, who conducted some of the interviews, and the three anonymous reviewers for the helpful comments.


The authors would like to thank the Helmholtz Association for providing funding for this five-year research project.

Author information




T.P. and T.N. designed and conducted the energy modeling tasks; S.P. identified critical descriptors; W.W.J. designed and executed the main interpretations of the CIB analysis, and W.H. performed systematic scenario selection; S.P, W.H, and W.W.J. executed the expert elicitation process (with the support of C.D.L. and R.S.); all of the authors jointly wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Thomas Pregger.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on ‘Integrated Scenario Building in Energy Transition Research’ edited by Witold-Roger Poganietz and Wolfgang Weimer-Jehle

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Pregger, T., Naegler, T., Weimer-Jehle, W. et al. Moving towards socio-technical scenarios of the German energy transition—lessons learned from integrated energy scenario building. Climatic Change 162, 1743–1762 (2020).

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  • Cross impact balancing
  • CIB
  • Energy system modeling
  • Energy transition
  • Socio-technical scenario