Thesis title: Uncertainty in energy system modelling
Primary supervisor: Neil Strachan
Secondary supervisor: Ilkka Keppo
Sponsor: EDF Energy
Starting date: 9th January 2012
Projected completion date: 9th June 2015
Energy-system modelling focuses on interactions of technological, economic, environmental and energy factors to provide insights into low-carbon energy transitions. Energy system modelling has the potential to make important contributions to the evidence base that underpin decarbonisation related policy decisions and that investors use to make investment decisions. However such analysis, and subsequent strategic decision making, must be made under conditions of deep and interlinked uncertainty.
This research project aims to:
• To assess the efficacy of current energy system models with respect to uncertainty;
• To assess the ability of the models to provide a firm evidence base upon which to build robust and resilient policy and/or investment decisions; and
• To establish the degree to which further develop-ments in energy system models should focus on model complexity, versus a more comprehensive representation of uncertainty;
• To review existing uncertainty techniques, identify relevant candidate techniques and implement these into an energy system modelling framework;
The primary outcomes from this piece of research will include:
• A taxonomy of key uncertainties using complemen-tary high-level frameworks e.g. structural versus parametric uncertainties, or epistemic versus aleatory uncertainty; de-termined through a combination of desk research and expert interviews;
• A deep understanding of the extent to which energy system models, such as the ETI-ESME model or UK MARKAL, can be relied upon to provide robust and resilient insights into future aspects of the energy system, illustrated through practical application of models and associated techniques to relevant energy issues;
• Key insights into how a probabilistic energy system model (ESME) compares to alternate modelling, analytical and scenario techniques for assessing future energy system uncertainties;
• Interactions with EDF Energy, including presenta-tions on findings using the ETI-ESME model
• Presentations at general energy international con-ferences such as IAEE International, the International Energy Workshop, and at specialised uncertainty and modelling conferences such as UCM2012 and INFORMS
• Two peer reviewed journal articles
Will’s primary research interest lies in the quantifica-tion of uncertainty in energy system models, strengths and weaknesses in the use of scenarios and alternative tech-niques such as expert elicitation to explore uncertainty.
Will joined UCL in September 2009 as a Research Associate in Energy and Modelling, under the UKERC fund-ed Energy Systems theme. Working primarily with the UK MARKAL model, he developed a stochastic variant, which he used with Neil Strachan in a project supporting the Committee on Climate Change 4th Budget Report in 2011. He also helped develop the UCL version of TIAM (the TIMES Integrated Assessment Model) and presented the results of both projects at several international conferences.
Will entered research via a circuitous route that took in the music and broadcast industries, work in the third sec-tor, and part-time study at the Open University.
In 2008 he commenced the MSc in Environmental Technology at Imperial College London, passing with Dis-tinction. Will specialised in Energy Policy at Imperial, and wrote a thesis on the use of electric vehicles for frequency regulation of the electricity grid. Immediately upon complet-ing the course, he commenced work at the newly estab-lished UCL Energy Institute.
Publications and Other Work
Usher, Will & Strachan, N. (2011) Critical mid-term uncer-tainties in long-term decarbonisation pathways. Energy Policy. In Press.
Strachan, N. & Usher, Will (2011) Failure to achieve stringent carbon reduction targets in a second-best policy world. Climatic Change, 41C, 433-444.
Anandarajah, G., Kesicki, F., Pye, S. & Usher, William (2010) TIAM-UCL Global Model Documentation, Avail-able at: http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=1043.
Strachan, N. & Usher, William (2010) Failure To Meet Long-Term UK Carbon Reduction Targets – A Systematic Assessment. In 11th IAEE EUROPEAN CONFER-ENCE. Vilnius, Lithuania, pp.1-13.
Usher, William (2010) Investment uncertainty under stringent UK decarbonisation targets. In 11th IAEE EUROPEAN CONFERENCE. Vilnius, Lithuania, pp.1-12.
Usher, William & Strachan, N. (2010) UK MARKAL Modelling - Examining Decarbonisation Pathways in the 2020s on the Way to Meeting the 2050 Emissions Target, London, UK. Available at: http://www.theccc.org.uk