Energy models provide the underpinning evidence to support decision makers across policy, industry and civil society to understand strategies and trade-offs in the energy transition.

However, energy modellers – in academia, government and consulting – have often struggled to make their models open and accessible to key stakeholders. Model transparency is time-consuming, unglamorous, rarely prioritised by funders, and undervalued in terms of modeller’s career progression. But transparency is key to ensure the implications and limitations of model insights are fully understood.

Driving model transparency

UKERC’s Energy Modelling Hub will meet this challenge. A key task is to collect and curate a comprehensive database of all the energy models in the UK to help drive models to be more transparent. The Modelling Hub defines three levels of model transparency:

  • Open description models: Concise methodological summary, outline documentation and link to outputs and applications
  • Open access models: A user group for access and shared responsibility for model development, plus full documentation and data sets
  • Open source models: Fully transparent and accessible models available for any user to download and use

A survey to build this database of UK energy models will be coordinated via the UKERC website. This comprehensive review will identify strengths and research gaps, help understand the process of model development and maintenance, help ensure model outputs can be validated, and facilitate deeper collaboration between modellers and decision makers.

The major findings from the database will be initially communicated by putting interactive diagrams/tables on the UKERC website. Furthermore reports with all survey questions that correspond to the first “open description” level will be made public. Contributing modelling teams and key stakeholders will receive further In-depth analysis of the range of UK energy models.

A mid-term aim is that all policy orientated energy modelling would become more transparent (at least level 1 – open description), while all publically funded energy modelling would reach a higher threshold of transparency (at least level 2 – open access). Modellers would have the opportunity to update their entries as efforts are made to increase the transparency of their models.

A further set of activities will widen the scope and strengthen the impact of the Modelling Hub:

  • Iterative development of a consistent database of parameters (data and assumptions) for energy models (linked to UKERC’s EDC)
  • A review of UK energy scenarios, with explicit focus on the societal and governance drivers normally semi-hidden in model narratives
  • Publication of a quality assurance (QA) protocol for validated and replicable modelling
  • Participatory engagement, enabled via the UKERC Advisory Board and UKERC events, to increase energy model responsiveness to key UK energy stakeholders.