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The role of digitalisation in low carbon scenarios

20 June, 2021

The role of digitalisation in low carbon scenarios

Tim Foxon

Noam Bergman

Research paper   Digital Society

Tim Foxon and Noam Bergman


Two of the major socio-technical transitions the world is currently facing are shifting to a low-carbon society, and a digital revolution. Despite some claims to the contrary, evidence suggests that spread and adoption of information and communications technologies (ICT) does not automatically lead to reduction in energy demand, if this stimulates new energy-using practices or wider economic growth (Lange, Pohl, and Santarius 2020). Despite this policy challenge, the two transitions are often considered separately.

We report from ongoing work investigating assumptions and framing of climate-focused transition scenarios, both global and UK-specific, to examine the role of digitalisation in these scenarios. We analyse the framing of the scenarios along several axes: (1) the relative focus on decarbonising energy supply or managing energy demand; (2) the relative focus on green growth or shifting to a focus on wellbeing (or even degrowth); (3) the relative focus of the narrative on dominant business models led by large ICT firms, or alternative business models which empowering communities and users; and (4) the relative focus on automation for optimising energy supply and demand or on empowering agency of users; as well as their specification of other economic, technical, user practice and political factors.

We find that low-carbon transition scenarios vary in their level of engagement with the digital revolution and the level of interaction between the two transitions, and in terms of their framing in the above axes, with many implicit assumptions. This suggests opportunities for improving policy interactions between these two transitions, and stimulating greater public debate on the different framings for an ICT-driven low carbon transition.

Publication details

Foxon, T.J. and Bergman, N. 2021. The role of digitalisation in low carbon scenariosOpens in a new tab eceee Summer Study 2021, 7–11 June 2021. Published in: eceee Summer Study proceedings. eceee ISSN 1653-7025

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