Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Poetic Modelling and Energy Transition

  • Project team:

    Grunwald, Armin (Project leader)

  • Funding:

    Volkswagen Foundation

  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Project partners:

    University of Münster (Prof. Achermann, Prof. Stierstorfer), KIT (Prof. Langemeyer, Prof. Hagenmeyer)

Project description

Models are among the basic strategies of human orientation and identity formation. Global challenges such as climate change, mass migration, or accelerating technological change require more than ever reliable modelling as a basis for social and political decisions. Despite this urgency and despite model research in many disciplines, a common linguistically and philosophically secured platform for concerted, interdisciplinary modelling and its successful communication is missing. The project aims to fill this gap with a general model theory and at the same time provide a tool for constructive model criticism and model usage. This is intended to bridge the gap between the humanities and the natural and technical sciences in an innovative way. The investigations are carried out using the case study of energy modelling in general and, in concrete terms, at the Energy Lab 2.0 of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

The ITAS subproject is dedicated to understanding the role of modelling in energy policy and technology assessment for the energy transition. Futures and future knowledge play a considerable role in any technology assessment for the energy transition as well as in other forms of search for reliable orientation. Model-based energy forecasts and energy scenarios are among the central elements. Many decisions in energy policy and energy research with regard to technologies and infrastructures for energy supply and energy conversion are made based on future knowledge, e.g. on the projected demand. It is even stated repeatedly that decisions should not only be oriented by energy scenarios but should also be optimized by them. Energy scenarios that are incorporated into decision-making processes in this way, in fact, often have a major influence on political and economic decisions, with consequences that sometimes extend decades into the future and corresponding path dependencies. Nevertheless, they are often not transparent in terms of the underlying models and their basic assumptions. Divergent energy futures are often controversial without there being clarity about the sources of divergence and about how to deal with it constructively. A radical conclusion could be that energy scenarios seem to be exposed to ideology or arbitrariness. Accordingly, the suspicion is repeatedly voiced that it is not independently generated energy futures that guide decisions, but that energy futures are sought that are consistent with decisions already made.

Against this background, the concept of hermeneutic technology assessment is transferred to the field of orientation of energy policy by model-based energy futures. Modelling and the use of the models for scenarios and decision making are addressed in the immanence of the present in order to enhance understanding and transparency of the formation of energy policy orientation.


Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-22500