Paper accepted at the Workshop "Deconstructing Participatory Climate Governance: Innovation or Business as Usual?"
Abstract — Civil society participation in discussions about the transition of energy supply and demand structures is challenging due to limited access to technical and systemic knowledge. The asymmetry of knowledge between experts and non-experts can undermine the credibility of participatory processes. There are open-access tools which are intended to improve the ability of stakeholders to engage in discussions as for example simulation-based tools that can provide insights into complex interactions. This paper summarises the results of our research about the question: To what extent do simulation-based tools empower stakeholders in participatory processes of the energy transition? This was done by a survey and categorization of existing tools followed by a qualitative evaluation of four cases and a concluding workshop where we discussed our resulting theses with experts from the different stakeholder groups. To define empowerment we drew on the participation pyramid by Rau et al. (2012) and Lüttringhaus (2003) consisting of four hierarchically sorted levels: Information, consultation, cooperation and delegation. The analyses showed that tools can bring the discussion of a participatory process to a more objective level, that to address user needs they must be involved in the programming process, and 3) that context variables influence the impact of a tool. Therefore, it is not only the tool itself that determines the outcome, but also the settings in which it is deployed. In this study we refer to simulation tools that reach at least the first steps of the participation pyramid as stakeholder empowerment (StEmp) tools. The full collection of added values of StEmp tools, possible problems and requirements for future tools can be found in the flow chart, which has emerged from the workshop (see results).