Energy Transformation – Nebojsa Nakicenovic’s research focus over the past 40 years has been on energy-system transformations toward a sustainable future within planetary boundaries. This includes strategies for successful technology diffusion, financing and adoption consistent with local circumstances and with the objective of improving human wellbeing and equity. His work is especially based on comprehensive assessments of energy technologies and scenarios, analysing the possible post-fossil economic strategy, both in terms of environmental protection, climate action as well as social considerations.
Technology diffusion has been a consistent focus throughout Nakicenovic’s career, commencing with his Masters Thesis in 1980 on the “Dynamics of substitution in energy systems”, followed by his Phd in 1984 on “Growth to Limits: Long Waves and the Dynamics of Technology”. In his later work, in particular through the Global Energy Assessment, the role of technology development and diffusion played a crucial role. Technology encompasses hardware (manufactured objects), software (knowledge needed to design, create and use the hardware) and orgware (institutional settings and rules related to knowledge on and the use of technologies).
Technology access and inequality – one of his main research fields is energy access for sustainable development and determining the effectiveness of different policies. This includes exploration of the following areas – energy technology diffusion strategies for achieving access to basic energy services for the three billion people excluded; how to provide essential energy services for productive purposes, mobility and buildings for improving human well-being and economic and social development while enhancing energy security; eliminating indoor and regional air pollution, and stabilizing climate change at below 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels?
Recent work is exploring in more detail the differences in technology uptake between technologies (e.g. mobile phone vs. sanitation), countries and population groups.