About the Calculator
The Irish 2050 Pathways Calculator is an in-depth version of Ireland’s My 2050 suitable for users who would like to further explore Ireland’s energy options. If you are a new visitor or are still learning about Ireland’s energy system, you should try My 2050 before exploring the full Pathways Calculator. If you’d like to try the full Calculator the Irish version is here.
The Calculator is for anyone prepared to spend time on Ireland’s options for a low-carbon future. It will be most useful to energy specialists working in business, government, NGOs or university students.
It is a 40-lever model of Ireland’s energy system that allows users to test pathways towards reducing emissions to 2050. It is provided free as an interactive and open-source tool that provides insights into how changes in our behaviour, adoption of low carbon technologies (including those still in development such as carbon capture and storage), the type of fuel we use, and scenarios for our agricultural and bioenergy policy impact upon total greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland.
Unlike many other energy forecasting models, the 2050 Calculator is not a ‘black box’ but is fully transparent. Underlying the ‘Webtool’ is an Excel model which can be downloaded if you would like to examine how the Calculator works and the assumptions we have made.
Technically it is an engineering-based scenario model, which means that:
- it models Ireland’s energy supply and demand using physical units such as land, cars and power plants
- the user chooses the characteristics, scale of deployment and manner of use of the different technology options
- it makes no economics-based assumptions about the way people’s behaviour changes in relation to supply and demand
- it doesn’t automatically optimise the energy system based on price or any other factor.
International 2050 Calculators
The Irish Calculator is based on the successful 2050 Calculator energy modelling methodology that began in the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK in 2009 and has since spread around the world. Over 25 countries including China, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Belgium, Mexico, and Columbia have built their own version of the 2050 Calculator. You can see a full list of countries here. Or you can visit the DECC Calculator website for further guidance. Most recently, a global Calculator has been launched through a collaborative effort by teams of experts around the world: globalcalculator.org
Controlling the Calculator
You control the Calculator using the 40 levers presented on the bottom half of the Webtool screen. Most levers offer a choice of four levels of ambition ranging from level 1 (minimal ambition to tackle climate change), to level 4 (extraordinarily ambitious and extreme level of abatement). For example, you can choose to build nuclear power stations, or reduce the distance people travel by car and increase the share of public transport.
On first sight the Calculator can appear overwhelming – don’t be afraid to start clicking on the choices from 1 to 4 to see the impact on the energy and emissions graphs above.
A summary description of what the levels mean will pop up when you hover over the level. For more information, click on the blue question mark and you will open up a full description giving background information, graphs and more detail about this lever. If you would like to read the full background document outlining all the trajectory choices in the model and their references you can follow this link.
In the supply sectors, you do not just have to choose between the whole numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, but can select levels between. To do this, click on the square multiple times, and you will step down 0.1 each time. For example, to set a lever to level 1.8, click on the level 2 square three times to step down from 2, then to 1.9 and then 1.8.
You can choose any combination of lever choices to create your own unique “pathway”, and then explore the implications.
Upon completion of the first version of the 2050 Calculator for Ireland we hosted a series of workshops and conducted targeted discussions to invite feedback from Irish experts in the field. A diverse range of views and expertise has been included and we are grateful for the input we have so far received. This is only the start of the conversation however and we hope that ongoing feedback will continue to refine the assumptions and the trajectory pathways in line with the latest developments going forward. Your own personal feedback on the Irish 2050 Calculator, suggestions for improvement, or experiences to share would be most welcome.
Finally, when using the Calculator is should be noted that it is not possible to predict the future and none of the pathways that this analysis describes is an optimal or preferred route. The aim of this 2050 pathways analysis is to demonstrate the scale of the changes that will be required, and the choices and trade-offs which are likely to be available to us as a society.
When considering the pathways, it is important to also think about what would be the cost of your choices (would it require a significant change from our current energy system or require a technology that is still only in development?) and therefore what could be the most economically advantageous pathway for Ireland.
In addition to cost, other criteria such as public acceptability, land use impacts, wider environmental impacts, practical deliverability, technological risk, international dependency, and fiscal, competitive, and socioeconomic impacts are important considerations in understanding which of the potential pathways to 2050 is most desirable and most deliverable.