30 November 2018 3 min read

A ‘whole systems’ approach to meeting our climate targets

What are the key roles of different low carbon energy technologies across the system to drive decarbonisation?

Meeting climate targets will require radical change across the entire energy system from power through buildings, transport, industry and supporting infrastructure such as networks. However, there are a myriad of competing energy technology options with different implications for costs, ability to meet consumers’ underlying needs, security of supply and environmental impacts. 

For example, to decarbonise heat in buildings the options may include a mix of district heat networks, biomass, hydrogen and electrification-based pathways, the latter with significant knock-on implications for the power sector. Understanding the most appropriate choices is even more challenging due to the high degree of uncertainty in factors such as future technology costs and performance.
Client requirement
To help guide investment in technology innovation and support policy analysis, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) required a holistic “whole energy system” design and planning capability that could explore future pathways to 2050 for decarbonisation in a robust manner. In particular, the system was needed to help answer questions such as:

  • What might be ‘no regret’ technology choices and pathways to 2050 targets?
  • How might accelerating the development of a technology, such as Carbon Capture and Storage, impact the solution?
  • Where are the key constraints e.g. energy resources, supply chains?
  • What is the total cost to society of meeting our climate targets?


Baringa’s role
Baringa have worked on the Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) on an ongoing basis for almost 10 years since its inception in 2008.  We led the initial scoping and development of the model and provided ongoing support for data gathering, further functionality enhancements and support for various pieces of scenario analysis.  Baringa also supported an international peer review of the model.

Outcomes and impact
The resulting Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) combines a sophisticated cost-optimisation process with Monte Carlo simulation to help explore the possible set of low carbon energy technologies whilst reflecting overarching uncertainty.
ESME has been used extensively by ETI’s public sector members, as well as private sector members (Shell, BP, EDF, Caterpillar and Rolls Royce) to guide their R&D funding strategies and is now being managed by the Energy Systems Catapult. ESME has been used to support work by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on carbon budgets and their renewable energy review, and by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to inform their Clean Growth Strategy. The software is also available to academics for use in research projects.
James Greenleaf, Director, Baringa
“Taking a whole energy systems approach to decarbonisation is vital to ensure we can reduce our emissions as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. Baringa’s work on the ESME model has led to a sophisticated and valuable analytical tool, which has helped generate key insights on future energy options for UK Government and industry.”