What do you want tomorrow to look like?

Today we find ourselves at a crossroads. We can keep going down the same road, where the energy transition remains in the hands of a few, where inequality is the norm, and where we still extract and use fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. Or we can choose to make a change, empowering people to build a circular economy, to more efficiently use the planet’s limited resources, and to produce energy themselves. ENABLE.EU is a Horizon 2020 project that has looked at European citizens’ use of energy today and applied foresight (a tool that provides us with different future scenarios and sets out roadmaps for how we can reach them through changes in policies, strategies and behaviours) to imagine what the future will look like in the event that we do nothing, or if, on the other hand, we change everything.

Click on each scenario to learn more.

2040 if we don't change2040 if we change
GENERAL OVERVIEW

WHAT IF NOTHING CHANGES?
ORGANISED IRRESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE TRANSITION IS IN THE HANDS OF A FEW.

In 2040, a neo-liberal policy milieu has led to increased corporate power and the privatization of commons. Economic prosperity assumes that the necessary knowledge and technological solutions to address environmental challenges and the energy crisis will emerge as needed, and existing solutions are primarily the result of private efforts and commercial investments. There is political pressure to prioritize support for “old manufacturing” (e.g. car companies). Outdated business models and heavy administrative burdens impede innovation and a few big energy players dominate the market. The NGOs tasked with protecting the environment are largely co-opted in a world ruled by global finance.

Both economic and social inequality within cities and countries is accepted as the norm. Some countries, regions, and even neighbourhoods keep progressing economically while others have substantial difficulties developing. Globalisation and the increased mobility of people, through migration, global business, and leisure travel, increase the trend towards cultural uniformity across the world.

The world energy mix is still based on the exploitation of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), with a scramble to control and influence the unstable energy- producing countries. The energy production, distribution and consumption system continues to rely on a centralised structure, even if some elements of renewable energy are integrated in this system. The Paris climate accords are not immediately followed by any other international carbon regulation regimes, resulting in recurrent climate impacts of ever greater magnitude and increased climate-induced migration. The transgression of planetary boundaries becomes visible both at the global and regional scale, manifested in extreme weather events that undermine and threaten living conditions as well as in biodiversity loss, which in turn leads to resource degradation and scarcity.

Lifestyles continue to be shaped by hyper-consumerism, and citizens make decisions for economic reasons and for personal comfort. Environmental services (air, water, biodiversity) are not prized for their intrinsic value but rather as commodities.

WHAT IF EVERYTHING CHANGES?
INCLUSIVE RESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER.

In 2040, the circular economy has become a reality, and the global focus has shifted from making a profit to social entrepreneurship and sustainable innovation. Respecting the planet’s boundaries is a pre-requisite for any kind of economic activity; eco-industries are on the rise and citizens, innovators, and industries everywhere experiment with new social and collaborative business models. Clusters of citizens collaborate, experiment and innovate in open dialogue with industries, policy-makers and citizens from distant but similar realities. The bottom-up approach – coordinated at the global level – produces a rich variety of innovations adapted to different local contexts and increases the diversity of knowledge. Sustainability is valued and energy is viewed as a human right. There are no “one fits all” solutions but many opportunities and ideas are tested and implemented, depending on local social, environmental and economic conditions.

In this context, cities and regions take on a new role in energy policies and a growing number of energy communities have become resilient and carbon neutral, thanks to the combination of technological advances and new social partnerships involving all city stakeholders. Citizens are no longer interested in owning if they can share: cars, services, and spaces present an opportunity to create a sense of connection and community. Goods are routinely recycled, and children are taught about sustainability, recycling and energy use in school.

Energy production from renewable sources is so widespread that energy has become a service that you can easily produce at home, find in your neighbourhood, or buy on the market. The energy actors have multiplied, and new skills and operators have been created, leading to the long-awaited revolution of the energy market. Everyone has easy access to sustainable energy services, and there is a wide diffusion of green jobs and skills. As a result, global energy consumption is reduced and energy comes from a mix of the gas network and carbon capture and storage, with more than 50% of the energy mix produced by small-scale plants connected through smart grids.

This paradigm shift likely would not have happened without the climate crisis, which motivated people to become more informed and empowered communities to take action. Armed with a new energy awareness and energy literacy, citizens have worked together to change their consumption, their community and the overall market.

2040 if we don't change2040 if we change
ENERGY CONSUMPTION

WHAT IF NOTHING CHANGES?
ORGANISED IRRESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE TRANSITION IS IN THE HANDS OF A FEW.

By 2040, energy prices have gone up, driven by the high cost of resources, while green energy from renewables is expensive because of the large private investments required for it. This eventually results in poor people having limited access to energy.

Both economic and social inequality within cities and countries is accepted as the norm. Some countries, regions, and even neighbourhoods keep progressing economically while others have substantial difficulties developing. Overall, the consumption pattern is polarised, with rich people able to pay for expensive green goods and services, including sustainable buildings and devices, and poor people unable to afford them. Indeed, those in lower income groups end up adopting lifestyles that lean towards decarbonisation, although this is driven by economic hardship rather than environmental awareness.

In the pursuit of economic development, local authorities attempt to attract private investment by dismantling social and environmental regulations. Suburban areas develop but with two separate patterns, determined by income level. This is also true of urban areas. In wealthier parts of the city, citizens live in eco-efficient buildings, consume renewable energies provided by solar panels, and move in electric cars in districts featuring eco-friendly infrastructures, green areas and urban gardens. Meanwhile, in the poorer areas, citizens face fuel poverty and do not have enough money to carry out building renovations.

WHAT IF EVERYTHING CHANGES?
INCLUSIVE RESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER.

By 2040, combined efforts on the part of governments and civil society have led to the development of a fully-fledged circular economy. The concept of disposability and the “take, make and dispose” system has been replaced by that of restoration, where products have multiple sustainable life cycles. Energy consumption is not only more efficient but also reduced overall, thanks to greener industrial technologies, building renovations and public awareness of the environmental footprint of individual actions. All levels of society are educated about energy and are fully engaged. As a result, there is a rich variety of innovations adapted to different local urban landscapes, weather and social contexts.

Buildings are retrofitted to become energy efficient and new ones are built as passive houses – ultra low energy buildings that require very little energy for heating and cooling. Regulations for building refurbishment are more and more stringent and are frequently updated to consider new materials and technologies. All homes now have smart meters as well as devices allowing users to check on their appliances remotely (for example, switching them on or off).

Social innovation and participatory processes have raised awareness and created a new sense of community; cities and citizens’ networks collaborate to create resilient districts, along with shared places and services that are able to reduce individual energy consumption while enhancing community relations. Cities have promoted the transition by simplifying procedures for the adoption of energy efficiency measures and creating incentives to encourage affordability and social acceptability of new energy efficient services.

The move towards efficient and effective energy use was triggered by increased citizen awareness and system transparency; people started considering how much our devices and lifestyles are energy dependent and looked for more information on how individual home consumption could be improved so as to save resources and money. By now, everyone understands that reducing energy consumption is essential if we are to safeguard our planet and our lives.

2040 if we don't change2040 if we change
ENERGY PRODUCTION

WHAT IF NOTHING CHANGES?
ORGANISED IRRESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE TRANSITION IS IN THE HANDS OF A FEW.

In 2040, energy sustainability is pursued by putting high prices on the use of natural resources and negative environmental externalities. On the one hand, reflecting the value of nature in the prices of goods and services preserves the environment. On the other hand, it limits the affordability of green products and environmentally friendly technology. The private sector provides innovative but expensive solutions to meet rich people’s demand for green products and services. Energy prices are raised to limit fuel consumption, while green energy from renewables is expensive because of the significant private investment needed, the combination of which eventually results in limited access to energy for poor people. Actions to promote the energy transition and lower CO2 emissions are not a priority and are constantly postponed.

Energy policies focus on factors influencing the supply side. Energy production is centralised, hierarchical and still mainly based on the exploitation of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), complemented by Carbon Capture and Storage and large-scale renewable energy sources (RES). The EU’s objective of 27% renewables by 2030 has been achieved, in great part thanks to the RES production coming from offshore wind and a limited number of large photovoltaic (PV) plants, while grid-connected distributed RES, particularly rooftop solar, experience slower growth rates than expected.

This is due to the fact that the promotion of consumer participation in the energy market has mostly failed and, in many EU countries, individual residential consumers have few opportunities or incentives to participate actively in demand-side management. To guarantee security of supply, member states have strengthened the few existing energy service providers, who remain the primary players in the electricity market and who encounter little or no competition from new actors. Because of this, it is difficult for new market actors to deploy innovative business models.

WHAT IF EVERYTHING CHANGES?
INCLUSIVE RESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER

In 2040, the circular economy has become a reality, and the global focus has shifted from making a profit to social entrepreneurship and sustainable innovation. Respecting the planet’s boundaries is a pre-requisite for any kind of economic activity; eco-industries are on the rise and citizens, innovators, and industries everywhere experiment with new social and collaborative business models. Clusters of citizens collaborate, experiment and innovate in open dialogue with industries, policy-makers and citizens from distant but similar realities. The bottom-up approach – coordinated at the global level – produces a rich variety of innovations adapted to different local contexts and increases the diversity of knowledge. Sustainability is valued and energy is viewed as a human right. There are no “one fits all” solutions but many opportunities and ideas are tested and implemented, depending on local social, environmental and economic conditions.

In this context, cities and regions take on a new role in energy policies and a growing number of energy communities have become resilient and carbon neutral, thanks to the combination of technological advances and new social partnerships involving all city stakeholders. Citizens are no longer interested in owning if they can share: cars, services, and spaces present an opportunity to create a sense of connection and community. Goods are routinely recycled, and children are taught about sustainability, recycling and energy use in school.

Energy production from renewable sources is so widespread that energy has become a service that you can easily produce at home, find in your neighbourhood, or buy on the market. The energy actors have multiplied, and new skills and operators have been created, leading to the long-awaited revolution of the energy market. Everyone has easy access to sustainable energy services, and there is a wide diffusion of green jobs and skills. As a result, global energy consumption is reduced and energy comes from a mix of the gas network and carbon capture and storage, with more than 50% of the energy mix produced by small-scale plants connected through smart grids.

This paradigm shift likely would not have happened without the climate crisis, which motivated people to become more informed and empowered communities to take action. Armed with a new energy awareness and energy literacy, citizens have worked together to change their consumption, their community and the overall market.

2040 if we don't change2040 if we change
MOBILITY

WHAT IF NOTHING CHANGES?
ORGANISED IRRESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE TRANSITION IS IN THE HANDS OF A FEW.

In 2040, urban sprawl continues to worsen, and commuters remain dependent on their cars.

In many EU cities, the housing market and poor urban policies have led to further development of low-density suburban and peri-urban areas. As the distance to the city centre increases and population density decreases, car emissions rise. As for the transport sector, improved transportation links and enhanced mobility translate into higher car ownership, while public transport remains marginal due to the inefficiencies of providing service in low-density areas. In addition, frequent traffic jams make streets an unpleasant and unsafe place to walk or cycle. In some cases, initiatives such as car-sharing, car-pooling, and co-working create opportunities to reduce travel or trip costs, but most citizens lack the necessary trust and social skills to take part in them. As a consequence, many urban areas are locked into a cycle of car-and-oil dependency.

The opportunities opened up by new technologies and by automated transport are often hindered by insufficient attention to the dynamics of demand and a lack of business innovation.

For citizens of the disadvantaged urban areas, mobility is a challenge, as public transport capacities have been significantly reduced after privatization, with private cars representing an expensive alternative.

WHAT IF EVERYTHING CHANGES?
INCLUSIVE RESPONSIBILITY, WHERE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER.

In 2040, all citizens have easy access to effective and suitable mobility options, while car ownership and use has been drastically reduced.
Much of this success is due to the creation of “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS), which is the integration and optimisation of existing transport systems. By integrating all means of transport, all mobility-related information and all payment methods, MaaS reduces the time and effort citizens have to put in to organize their trips and so makes sustainable mobility options effective, simple, and accessible to everybody. Public transport offers efficient services with zero emissions vehicles and adjusts fares to citizens’ incomes. Taxes and tolls make individual transportation, apart from bikes, very expensive, with the exception of emergency services and people with highly restricted mobility. Many EU capitals ban gas-powered cars and set up restricted traffic zones, while establishing numerous bike and walking trails that residents take full advantage of.

The landscape of European cities has been transformed by mixed land use, and citizens enjoy a “slow” lifestyle, with a reduced need for both short- and long-distance travel. These new mobility patterns have reduced air pollution and encouraged physical activity and social cohesion.

Behind this paradigm shift, there is an increased emphasis on collective rather than individual transport and on the many opportunities to connect with others without physically moving (for example, through e-health, e-commerce, and teleworking). This transition has been supported by the establishment of a strong public authority that has supervised the integration process needed to create Mobility as a Service. This public authority has also built new forms of public-private partnerships, and these have allowed different actors to enter the market.