The Complexities of Energy System Transition to Sustainability: A Systems Thinking Approach
This paper explores the complexities of the energy system and its transition to sustainability. Energy is a pervasive human need and has underpinned human development and wellbeing. World energy use has grown dramatically since the rise of civilisation and is interwoven with discoveries of sources and uses of energy, especially the exploitation of fossil fuel resource stocks and the assembly of energy system infrastructures. The current energy system is based on fossil fuel which presents some sustainability challenges. These include its finite nature, environmental pollution, and geographical imbalance between energy resources and energy use creates uncertainty and instability of supply with implications on energy security. This calls for a need to transit for fossil fuel to a sustainable energy system. The energy system is a complex system that has multiple interactions between variable within its system and outside a larger system, therefore presents feedbacks, delays and non-linearity. Most countries are striving for sustainability and thus are revaluating their energy system, which at present is far from sustainable. Sustainability requires that social, technology, economic, environmental and political (STEEP) are considered in the process of this transition. The transition of an energy system from fossil fuel to sustainability presents many challenges as the energy system interacts with all sustainability dimensions, therefore making it a complex venture. A sustainable energy system is a holistic concept that encompasses, but extends well beyond, sustainable energy resource. This paper uses Systems Thinking methodology in analysing the energy system and explaining the complexities of its transition to a sustainable state. It is a holistic approach to analysis focused on the ways a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of a larger system. It posits that system behaviours results from the effect of reinforcing and balancing processes. It also pays attention to feedbacks and delays which could cause disruptions in the system. This paper utilises secondary data to analyse the current fossil fuel energy system with the aim of providing a better understanding to help policy makers with decision making on sustainable energy pathways.
Authors: Nkechiwetalu Nwankwo, Titus Olaniyi, Antony Morgan
Published in: World Congress on Sustainable Technologies (WCST-2022)
- Date of Conference: 6-8 December 2022
- DOI: 10.20533/WCST.2022.0006
- ISBN: 978-1-913572-57-0
- Conference Location: Virtual (London, UK)