The research project, Turning the power – a megagame for increased understanding of the energy system, has been awarded SEK 9 million from the Swedish Energy Agency. Its aim is to use new methods to help various societal actors in the conversion to sustainable energy.
The project will be led by researchers at Linköping University and will run from 2021 to 2024, as a joint project with researchers from Jönköping University and the University of Skövde. Ola Leifler is senior lecturer in the Department of Computer and Information Science and a member of the project team. He told us about the megagame research.
Congratulations on receiving the research grant. But what is a megagame and how do they work?
You could say that a megagame is a large-scale role-playing game with elements from both board games and crisis management simulations. In the armed forces, for example, you have to train for various emergencies that may arise. But you don’t want to run the training in a real situation, so you simulate an emergency to investigate how you should act, and improve your working methods. Our megagame will run along the same lines, since it will be necessary to manage the risk of emergencies associated with climate change. There is, at the same time, a more long-term perspective and the opportunity to analyse proactively various scenarios.
What will you be doing in the new research project?
We plan to simulate the structure of energy systems in Östergötland in the coming decades using the megagame. Our complete social structure and way of life are based on the availability of cheap heating, electricity and fuel. This affects everything. But cheap energy is also often non-sustainable. It’s obvious that society will have to realign and reduce emissions to be compatible with Agenda 2030. But that doesn’t mean that reducing emissions can be done at the expense of the ability of folk to earn a living. In other words, we see that many factors must be weighed against each other.
What are the advantages of using a megagame for this?
It exposes conflicts of interest between different societal actors, and the challenges we face when balancing the energy needs of society with environmental objectives. Revealing where potential conflicts arise makes it possible to find better solutions. The participants in the megagame are forced to think about the actions we should take and how we want to change society. Is the solution that we must change behaviour, or is it technical developments? Maybe it’s something completely different.
Who can play?
We aim to gather a broad group that can represent researchers, politicians, commercial interests, students and the general public. Or to put it simply: anyone who considers themselves to be part of the societal conversion can join in. It is the participants who choose the route, and their ideas about the conversion will define the game.
The project has funding until 2024. How do you see the coming years?
The research grant from the Swedish Energy Agency gives stability and continuity in the research. We have previously worked with a similar megagame that looked at climate change, so we’re not starting from scratch. Now we will have to construct a model of the energy system and determine which parameters are important to ensure that the megagame is reasonable and engaging. It doesn’t have to be completely realistic, but the participants must experience it as relevant. We’ll have to see how it works out: the megagame in this project will be very different from the previous one, since it will focus on the needs of society relative to the energy system, rather than the climate as a whole.
Translated by George Farrants