Energy Modelling: Modelling UK Long-term Carbon Abatement Scenarios with UK MARKAL

Neil Strachan and Ramachandran Kannan, Policy Studies Institute

This paper details the initial results of two year modelling project undertaken by the UK Energy Research Centre’s Energy System Modelling theme, to quantify long term carbon reduction scenarios for the UK.  This has involved the construction of a new MARKAL model for the UK.


MARKAL is a dynamic technology-rich energy systems economic optimisation model of the entire UK energy system. Outputs of the model include a determination of the technological mix at intervals into the future, estimates of total system cost, energy demand (by type and quantity), use of energy infrastructures, the mix of input fuels, energy commodity prices, investment in efficiency options and environmental emissions. 

The new UK model has been substantially rebuilt and enhanced including detailed sectoral (industry, transport, commercial, residential) representation, fossil and renewable resource supply curves, and explicit depiction of key energy processes including the refining sector, hydrogen and biomass chains, nuclear fuel cycle and centralized-decentralized electricity grids. A major methodological extension has been the integration of this very rich technological characterization of the UK energy system with a neoclassical macroeconomic model with an aggregated view of long-term economic growth.  This approach has two key advantages: allowing an aggregated demand response to supplement technology pathway optimization, and facilitating direct analysis of the impacts (i.e., consumption and GDP) of various energy and environmental policies on the growth of the economy. 

A range of long-term carbon abatement scenarios for the UK are being run using the new UK MARKAL model.  Key variables include resource prices, energy service demands, and technology assumptions.  In particular, the model is run for relative changes in the cost and performance of major technology classes: end-use efficiency, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, large-scale remote renewables, grid-connected renewables, and micro-generation technologies.  These runs will map out the landscape of possible futures and illustrate the key technology pathways for such a major restructuring of the UK energy system.  This presentation focuses on quantification of these alternate pathways and the tradeoffs inherent within an integrated energy system.

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