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Modelling the UK Energy System: Practical Insights for Technology Development and Policy Making


The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has developed an internationally peer-reviewed model of the UK’s national energy system extending across power, heat transport and infrastructure. The Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) is a policy neutral system-wide optimisation model. It models the key technology and engineering choices, taking account of cost, engineering, spatial and temporal factors.
Key points:

  • A system-wide perspective, informed by modelling, is highly relevant because complex energy systems are made more inter-dependent by emissions reduction objectives
  • Efforts to cut emissions are substitutable across a national energy system encompassing power, heat, transport and infrastructure.
  • Energy systems are subject to key decision points and it is important to make the right choices in major long lived investments
  • Policy makers should place policy in a system-wide context.
The ETI’s current ESME-based analysis of the UK energy system shows that
  • Decarbonisation can be achieved affordably (at around 0.6% of GDP), provided that the most cost effective technologies and strategies to reduce emissions are deployed
  • A broad portfolio of technologies is needed to deliver emissions reductions, with bio-energy and carbon capture and storage of particular system-wide importance
Policy makers can use energy system modelling to inform market and policy design, increase understanding of pathways (including the impacts of ‘real world’ constraints and inertia in deploying technology), and identify key ‘contender’ technologies with particular system-wide value.

Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: United Kingdom

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