During our 10 years of operation we have worked across the research, design and development of a number of initiatives and technologies which are having a real impact on the progression of low-carbon energy in the UK. One of our stand out pieces of work which continues to deliver strategic value to the UK government, academia and industry is our whole energy system modelling tool, ESME.
What is it? ESME is a national system design and planning capability which identifies the lowest-cost decarbonisation pathways for the UK energy system. It stands for Energy System Modelling Environment. Focusing on a whole-systems approach (understanding the interactions and reactions of choices), ESME uses a variety of software models and data sets to run simulations factoring in sustainability and security targets, technology operation, energy demands and UK geography. Alongside this it also incorporates the major issues in energy today such as, energy generation, fuel production, heating and energy use in buildings and transportation. Because ESME factors in all of these key components across a wide breadth of technologies it is able to provide clear frameworks on how to realistically achieve climate change targets and make a low-carbon transition economically viable for the UK.
Why is this important? The UK Government committed to the Climate Change Act in 2008, making it the first country to introduce a long-term, legally binding framework to tackle climate change. The Act set the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% relative to 1990 levels by 2050. In order to meet this target substantial changes to the country’s current energy use and infrastructure need to be made. The UK energy system currently runs on ageing infrastructure which was created for a much simpler world. Over the decades as innovation progresses in every aspect of our lives energy demand and its use has changed significantly. As the country now needs to update its infrastructure and degenerating technologies, ESME helps to identify what might be the right mix of technologies including low-carbon alternatives in order to future-proof the UK energy system.
What’s next? We currently share this model and its outputs with our private and public sector (government departments) members, academic bodies and the Committee on Climate Change. We also work closely with the Energy Systems Catapult who following the transfer of our strategic analysis function into their ranks at the end of 2017, are now updating and maintaining ESME. They are using this capability to better understand how innovations can best contribute to the energy transition and deliver most economic value. Over the last decade we have used ESME and its data to publish a library of insights and perspective reports which detail our thinking on energy strategy and in Autumn 2018 we will again use ESME to publish an update to our 2015 ‘Options, Choices, Actions: UK scenarios for a low carbon energy system transition’. This details two plausible scenarios for how the UK can meet its climate targets – one from a centralised approach and one from a more organic approach to stimulate debate about the choices the UK must make and the actions the country needs to take. To find out more please visit www.eti.co.uk/strategy/