How technological and new societal trends may influence the European sustainable energy transition: analysis of policies, methodologies and impacts

Nadezhda Mikova

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 2 (Research NOT UU / Graduation UU)


Although a number of European countries have developed low-carbon energy strategies and analysed them in the form of scenarios, only a part of them consider projections to 2050. No country so far developed a complex view on the role of technological, as well as non-technological factors (e.g. social acceptance of technologies, stakeholder participation, lifestyle and consumption patterns), and policies to address both aspects. New societal trends can often be linked to general megatrends, which have potentially large increasing or decreasing impacts on energy demand. Such trends include e.g. transition to a circular and sharing economy, a prosumer society and digitalisation of economic and private life.
The research question is: How can technological and new societal trends influence the European long-term sustainable energy transition?
1. What insights can be derived on the similarities and differences in policy settings of European low-carbon energy strategies, as well as the potential for their improvement in order to achieve the EU 2050 climate neutrality targets?
2. What methodological approaches (including qualitative and quantitative methods, data sources and software tools), can be applied to monitor technological trends in the sustainable energy area and what can we learn for the analysis of non-technological trends?
3. How can information about (inter) relationships between technological and non-technological trends and their controversial impact on future energy demand support the formulation of environmental policies in the European countries?
4. How would new societal trends (e.g. digitalisation, sharing economy, prosumaging, etc.) influence future energy demand and the realisation of the European long-term energy strategies?
The research is based on using qualitative (e.g. literature review, expert procedures, impact assessment, scenario development) and quantitative methods (e.g. text mining, statistical analysis, clustering, network analysis, modelling), as well as a various data sources (e.g. international reports, scientific publications, patents, media, foresight projects, statistical databases). To address how technological and new societal trends – in their interaction – may influence the sustainable energy transition, three perspectives are taken in this thesis: policy, methodology and impacts.
Based on the findings of this thesis, theoretical recommendations can be formulated. First, using combination of qualitative and quantitative methods can be helpful to analyse technological and new societal trends and their contribution to the energy transition, including more evidence-based approaches for monitoring of technological trends and more quantitative estimations to analyse the impacts of new societal trends. Second, a more systemic approach is needed, integrating different types of trends and data sources. Third, further analysis of interrelationships between trends is highly important. Practical recommendations are related to the following aspects. First, a more harmonised approach to achieve the EU 2050 climate neutrality targets should be developed, with national requirements at the EU level. Second, different types of trends and their interrelationships should be efficiently incorporated into scenario development. Third, further efforts are needed to develop the ways to more efficiently integrate trends monitoring results into policy decision-making using a systemic framework that includes analysis of emerging trends (e.g. technological, societal, economic, political and others), along with their individual attributions and interrelationships.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Eichhammer, Wolfgang, Supervisor
  • Worrell, Ernst, Supervisor
  • Brugger, Heike, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date12 Apr 2024
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • energy policy
  • sustainable energy transition
  • low-carbon energy scenarios 2050
  • green energy
  • technology foresight
  • technology trends monitoring
  • qualitative and quantitative methods
  • data sources
  • new societal trends
  • energy efficiency


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