Energy sufficiency

This thread seeks to collect ideas and sources on energy sufficiency. Energy sufficiency examines whether some the energy services that households and firms currently consume are in fact necessary or indeed even beneficial. In contrast, lifestyle change usually covers both energy efficiency and sufficiency.

Darby and Fawcett (2018) review the concept. The Energy Sufficiency website offers ongoing information.

Samadi et al (2017) review the literature and define and examine the role of sufficiency in future energy scenarios. They also survey studies that have explicitly considered lifestyle change and the extent to which sufficiency can be quantified.

A trialog, scheduled for 22 February 2019, is being run by the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). An unofficial translation of the event outline provides a flavor of how the debate is being framed in this case:

In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the energy supply must be radically changed. There is no question that we need new technologies and effective legislation to achieve this. But we rarely realize how deeply this transformation will affect our everyday lives. If the further expansion of photovoltaic and wind power plants is to be limited, we must drastically reduce the use of energy. Among other things, this may mean that driving and flying will no longer be possible to the same extent that they are today. But the necessary conversion also offers opportunities, for example to make cities a better place to live. How can and must we change our daily lives in order to integrate new technologies and use energy and resources more efficiently? Which things, that are still taken for granted today, might need to be abandoned in the future? What do the changes mean for industrial production and for companies? And how can we best prepare for change?


Darby, Sarah and Tina Fawcett (2018). Energy sufficiency: an introduction — Concept paper. Stockholm, Sweden: European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE).

Energy Sufficiency (ongoing). Energy sufficiency. European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE). Stockholm, Sweden. Website.

Samadi, Sascha, Marie-Christine Gröne, Uwe Schneidewind, Hans-Jochen Luhmann, Johannes Venjakob, and Benjamin Best (1 November 2017). “Sufficiency in energy scenario studies: taking the potential benefits of lifestyle changes into account”. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. 124: 126–134. ISSN 0040-1625. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2016.09.013. No paywall.


Not energy, but sufficiency in modelling climate protection scenarios, a publication by the German Umweltbundesamt 55/2018. From the abstract (text only in German):

Combining all the above findings, initial recommendations for th e modelling of sufficiency were formulated. These recommendations are aimed at all those who work with modelling quantitative climate protection scenarios. In addition to technical model recommendations on methodological requirements, the recommendations focus on three important aspects:

  1. Model ling exercises should allow for exploring possible solution pathways in the field of sufficiency. The necessary models are to be developed for this purpose. By comparing the results derived by different models, helpful bases for policy decisions can be provided.

  2. The calibration of sufficiency in models should be improved and standardized. Ideally this is facilitated by means of a freely available and scientifically sound database.

  3. Communication on the importance of sufficiency should be improved. For example, narratives should be developed and the results should be translated into vivid images.

To complete the triad of efficiency and sufficiency, last be mentioned consistency. The latter term is what is trying to be achieved by switching to more climate friendly and environment compatible energy sources, like RES. From this perspective, sufficiency is probably the least sufficiently included dimension in many models (pun intended).

Full reference for publication reviewed above:

Zell-Ziegler, Carina, and Hannah Förster (July 2018). Mit Suffizienz mehr Klimaschutz modellieren: Relevanz von Suffizienz in der Modellierung, Übersicht über die aktuelle Modellierungspraxis und Ableitung methodischer Empfehlungen — Texte 55/2018 [Model deeper climate protection with sufficiency: relevance of sufficiency in modelling, overview of current modelling practice and derivation of methodological recommendations — Document 55/2018] (in German). Dessau-Roßlau, Germany: Umweltbundesamt (UBA).

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German Environmental Agency 2019 RESCUE study

The German Environment Agency (officially Umweltbundesamt or UBA) published its RESCUE study in November 2019. The study relies on closed analysis with the modeling consortium comprising: ifeu — Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung GmbH, Fraunhofer IEE — Fraunhofer‑Institut für Energiewirtschaft, SSG — Sustainable Solutions Germany, and CONSIDEO GmbH. Key references are listed below and the study landing page is located here.

The RESCUE study analyzes six scenarios for Germany to achieve climate neutrality in 2050 and simultaneously cut its resource usage. Despite being closed analysis, the scenarios and results are interesting, particularly the role of personal consumption within some scenarios. UBA head Maria Krautzberger said society as a whole had to “totally change certain habits” and quickly adapt to new technologies and production procedures. For instance, under the so‑called GreenSupreme scenario:

  • energy demand in would fall from about 2500 TWh in 2015 to less than 1100 TWh in 2050 and be covered entirely by renewable sources
  • e‑mobility, power‑to‑X and energy and resource‑efficient technologies are widespread
  • domestic air travel and motorized individual transport in cities have largely been replaced by more climate-friendly alternatives
  • CCS technologies are not on offer
  • under this scenario, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 97% or more (relative to 1990) is possible if all CO2 reduction and natural absorption potentials are exploited
  • in addition, resource demand is cut by 70%

The RESCUE study did not assess the economic viability of the various scenarios considered.


Günther, Jens, Harry Lehmann, Philip Nuss, and Katja Purr (November 2019). Resource-efficient pathways towards greenhouse-gas-neutrality: RESCUE — Summary Report. Dessau-Roßlau, Germany: Umweltbundesamt (UBA).

Purr, Katja, Jens Günther, Harry Lehmann, and Philip Nuss (November 2019). Wege in eine ressourcenschonende Treibhausgasneutralität: RESCUE — Langfassung [Resource-efficient pathways towards greenhouse-gas-neutrality: RESCUE — Full report] (in German). Dessau-Roßlau, Germany: Umweltbundesamt (UBA).

Wehrmann, Benjamin (5 November 2019). Study says Germany can achieve 2050 climate neutrality without nuclear and CCS. Clean Energy Wire. Berlin, Germany. Third‑party reporting.


In some scenarios:

  • meat consumption is progressively cut to 30% by 2050 and milk products to 85% — in line with official recommendations on diet
  • international flights are reduced to 50% — with half of that reduction replaced by ground travel and the remainder forgone
  • cars in urban areas are reduced to one third — with the passenger fleet now mostly car shared and similar, hence relatively little private ownership remains
  • per person living space is reduced

In one scenario:

  • economic growth is presumed to cease after 2030

Resource use is measured in tonnes of resources — everything just added up — but there are some more detailed analyses of certain materials.

UBA is to be commended for tackling social transformation in this set of scenarios. Indeed, the very rapid decarbonization targets currently being advocated (net‑zero by 2035 and earlier) are unlikely to be mathematically feasible without energy sufficiency playing a central role.

Another reference on energy sufficiency:

Spitzner, Meike and Sandra Buchmüller (2016). Energiesuffizienz — Transformation von Energiebedarf, Versorgungsökonomie, Geschlechterverhältnissen und Suffizienz — No 8 Wuppertal Report [Energy sufficiency: transformation of energy demand, supply economics, gender balance, and sufficiency — No 8 Wuppertal Report] (in German). Wuppertal, Germany: Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie. ISSN 1862-1953. Creative Commons CC‑BY‑NC‑NC‑4.0 license.

@frauke outlined a new research program on energy sufficiency at the first openmod mini‑workshop:

Wiese, Frauke (26 March 2020). The role of energy sufficiency in the energy transition and in society — Presentation. Flensburg, Germany: Europa-Universität Flensburg. Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license.

One quite recent network that can also be relevant for those interested in sufficiency : The ENOUGH network (International Network for Sufficiency Research & Policy).
This network also has its own mailing list with interesting exchanges, events, contacts and resources (see the Research Gate ENOUGH page).

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Dear all,
we have recently started a 5-years research project on integrating energy sufficiency into open energy system models (@frauke has already introduced this to some of you, see post by @robbie.morrison above).

I would be highly interested to find peers here, especially on

  • (Energy) sufficiency integration in energy system modeling
  • Modeling of energy consumption, also covering behaviour/sufficiency (any sector)
  • Modeling of (parts of the) chain: policy > impacts > energy demand > energy system
    Also, any hints on methods and theories are welcome…

If you are working/have experience on any of the above, I kindly invite you to share this here or directly by mail to

Would be happy to link up, best

I run some simulations with scenarios much closer to “energy sufficiency” with a TIMES model and costs to attain mitigation targets were much lower

best, Miguel

A new study by Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and co‑workers (Anderson et al 2020) looks at the national policies of the United Kingdom and Sweden in light of the remaining global carbon budget. There is a considerable mismatch. Anderson later recounts his thoughts in plain english in The Ecologist (Anderson and Stoddard 2020) in a short commentary — well worth reading. And The Guardian picks up the story as well (Taylor 2020) — quoting Anderson:

"Globally the wealthiest 10% are responsible for half of all emissions, the wealthiest 20% for 70% of emissions. If regulations forced the top 10% to cut their emissions to the level of the average EU citizen, and the other 90% made no change in their lifestyles, that would still cut total emissions by a third.

If we were serious about this crisis we could do this in a year — if we were really serious we could do it in a month, but we are not and our emissions just keep rising."

I’ve not seen carbon sufficiency being expressed in such targeted terms before. R.


Anderson, Kevin and Isak Stoddard (8 June 2020). “Beyond a climate of comfortable ignorance”. The Ecologist. ISSN 0012-9631.

Anderson, Kevin, John F Broderick, and Isak Stoddard (28 May 2020). “A factor of two: how the mitigation plans of ‘climate progressive’ nations fall far short of Paris-compliant pathways”. Climate Policy. 1–15. ISSN 1469-3062. doi:10.1080/14693062.2020.1728209. Open access.

Taylor, Matthew (26 June 2020). “Leading climate scientist criticises UK over its record”. The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0261-3077.


Anderson’s affiliations: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK | Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS), Uppsala University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden | Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.

The recent webinar from @frauke is now up on YouTube:

The accompanying slides are referenced earlier in the thread.

A 2020 study from Germany deploying a societal transformation scenario (STS) is listed below. The FAQ also provides some background on the Global Calculator (GC) spreadsheet model used:

The french Association négaWatt leads a bottom-up scenario with a network of partners around Europe aims to introduce the same kind of sufficiency-based approach on the European level.


The entire program for the outreach series (see above) can be found in the links below — although most of the material is in German:

The contributing institutions are Europa Universität Flensburg, Wuppertal Institute, and Öko-Institut.

Online presentations can be found at the following YouTube channel:

The Wuppertal Institute, the Europa Universität Flensburg and the Öko-Institut are also hosting a workshop specifically on Modelling Energy Sufficiency in English: 16 March 2021, 16:00–17:30 CET. More information:

Peter Newell, professor of international relations at the Centre for Global Political Economy, University of Sussex, United Kingdom, has been publishing on the “polluter elite” and the need to also tackle those who disproportionately contribute:

Newell (2021) states that “across the world, just 1% of the population is responsible for 50% of CO2 emissions from commercial aviation”.

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