Past Energy Futures. Energy Projections and Decision-Making in the Electricity Sector since 1945

Prof. Dr. Paul Thomes, Aachen (Principal Investigator)

Patrick Reiter, Aachen


Assumptions on technological change and future innovations are central to generating economic expectations. Environmental factors, for instance technology and economy can cause long-term shifts as well as short-term disruptions for both producers and consumers. To reduce the resulting uncertainty, economic and political actors rely on expectations about the future development of key economic and technological variables such as the availability of different resources, the applicability of (new) technologies, and their cost efficiency.

Agents in business and politics might use forecasts and projections as the basis of decision-making but also as a strategic means to legitimize their positions. Consumer behavior needs to be reflected in forecasting models, but after publishing a scenario might also influence future consumer choices. Therefore, the research of the influence of energy projections on expectation formation and strategic decision-making processes connects several of the Priority Program’s core research areas, including enterprises, economic policy and consumer behavior.

Projections are generally used when planning horizons exceed usual time frames for strategic management decisions, helping to handle insecurity. This is especially the case in the field of electricity supply where planning in particularly long time frames is needed to maintain a complex system of power plants, distribution networks, and consumer infrastructure. This project will focus on the situation of suppliers of electricity in Western Europe after 1945 and especially in the sphere of influence of the 1973 oil crisis.