Patrick Reiter studied business administration at RWTH Aachen University focussing on Energy, Mobility & Environment.

Since 2016 Patrick Reiter has been working for the Teaching and Research Unit for Economics and Social History and History of Technology as a research assistant. In his area of responsibility falls to support a project, funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, in the priority program „Erfahrung und Erwartung: historische Grundlagen ökonomischen Handelns" focussing on strategical management by energy concerns.



Past Energy Futures. Energy Projections and Decision-Making in the Electricity Sector since 1945

Funding within the framework of the DFG Priority Programme 1859 "Experience and Expectation. Historical Foundations of Economic Action".

Assumptions about technological development paths are an important element of expectation formation. Case studies on how to deal with technology decisions therefore offer an opportunity to look at changing mechanisms of economic action. This applies in particular to the field of energy supply. Forecasts have become an important basis for political and economic planning. Long-term planning is indispensable for electricity generation in order to maintain the complex system of power plants, distribution networks and utilisation technologies.

Looking back into the past to predict future developments using scientific methods links elements of adaptive and rational expectation formation. For the second half of the 20th century, the project asks how mechanisms of expectation formation have shaped (and distorted) decision-making and planning processes in the energy sector.

Energy forecasts are not only the result of negotiation processes, but also require cultural appropriation and interpretation. A systematic understanding of their role makes it possible to assess decision-making processes better and to define interrelations more precisely. Countless energy studies, scientific and public discussions, interviews with contemporary witnesses and a large number of different archive holdings provide a suitable basis for this. From a historical perspective, it is crucial to what extent forecasts and the discourses attached to them are part of a new reflexivity of economic action.

For economics, historical case studies can serve as a test and supplement for theoretical considerations. At the same time, historical analysis makes it possible to critically reflect on current forecasting possibilities in energy research. Changing forms and functions of forecasts make it clear that expectations are based on specific socio-cultural contexts.

The project reflects this heterogeneity by looking at forecasts from the perspective of the history of science and technology, from a corporate and management perspective, and from the point of view of modelling. The first part examines the history of energy forecasting as a process of scientification. The second part of the project aims to determine the role of forecasting in decision-making processes based on concrete practices in companies. Case studies on energy suppliers from three countries will show interdependencies between material conditions, institutional frameworks and cultural preferences. Finally, a third part will examine gaps and errors in historical energy forecasts. By discussing possibilities of how historical knowledge can be integrated into the conception of forecasts, ways will also be sought to make the results of the overall project usable in practice.