Scientists and policymakers discuss EU energy system at EMP-E2019

08 October 2019
Energy modelling

EMP-E 2019 Conference: Modelling the implementation of 'A Clean Planet for All Strategy' | 8–9 October 2019 | EC DG RTD, Brussels

The annual meeting of the Energy Modelling Platform for Europe (EMP-E) has again brought together a large number of scientists and policy makers involved in the transformation of the European energy system to achieve the EU's ambitious decarbonisation targets. Key themes of the conference were 'pathways and scenarios towards the Paris agreement', 'achieving ambitious RES deployment in a multi-coupled European energy system', 'the effects of externalisation on decarbonisation pathways', and 'decarbonisation of cities: modelling energy transition, sector coupling and cross-sectoral challenges'.  

This year's edition was co-organized by MAGIC, in particular the plenary session on externalisation, featuring presentations by MAGIC's coordinator Mario Giampietro, MEDEAS coordinator Jordi Solé Ollé, and the EC policy officers Philippe Tulkens (DG RTD) and Alessandro Antimiani (DG Trade). The presentations of this plenary session are available on our project website document repository

Jordi Solé’s (MEDEAS) talk addressed ‘energy cannibalism’. This term refers to the existence of a transitional period in which the energy used to build alternative energy plants will exceed the energy produced by the new plants. Applying this concept to the analysis of the effect of a quick transition to alternative energy sources (still powered by fossil energy), we should expect that in the short term a rapid transition toward a low-carbon energy sector will see a period of increasing emissions. This phenomenon entails that the speed of the transition is another relevant factor for policymaking.

The second speaker, Mario Giampietro (MAGIC), emphasized the importance of considering outsourcing (externalization of requirement of resources) in the models dealing with decarbonization. He showed several examples of biophysical assessments to flag the importance of factors that are usually missed by conventional economic models, such as demographic changes, the pace of changes in the level of capitalization of the economy, the different structures of the economy, and the level of openness in terms of imports and exports of the various economic sectors. Comparing the changes in the pattern of energy uses in China and EU over a 15-year period, Giampietro showed that the operation of the EU economy depends on virtual inputs determined by favorable terms of trade. Particularly striking is the amount of work hours embodied in imports: equal to 70% of the total work hours recorded inside the EU economy!

Alessandro Antimiani (EC-DG TRADE) addressed the challenges posed by the generation of information useful for informing trade policies. In particular, it would be essential to be able to tailor policies to the specificity of countries. On the other hand, at the moment of negotiating trade agreement it becomes very difficult to find a shared definition of targets among countries operating in different situations. In fact, the same policy can have quite different effects on the economy of different countries. Moreover, the link between trade and climate change is difficult to study using conventional econometric models, especially when considering the interaction across economies at different levels of economic development.

Philippe Tulkens (EC-DG RTD) summarized the main findings of the three presentations and made a call for a better integration of the outcomes of different EU models. Several EU-funded projects deal with the effect of trade and it would be essential to integrate the information presented in this session with the information already available from these projects. It is essential to integrate the generation of scientific information across different disciplines and policy domains and increase the co-production of scientific information with decision makers in order to guarantee its policy relevance.

The MAGIC UAB team also organized two focus groups at the event, one on the 'WEF Nexus in Energy Models: The Case of Biofuel', and one on 'Integrating Social Practices in Energy Models', and four MAGIC researchers contributed a poster presentation: Cutting through the biofuel confusion: a taxonomy for an effective energy accounting (Maddalena Ripa); Advanced bioethanol potential in the EU from maize & wheat crop residues (Bunyod Holmatov); Changes in the metabolic pattern of energy in Europe and China 2000-2016 (Raúl Velasco-Fernández); Performance of oil production systems beyond Peak Oil: implications for the decarbonisation of the EU economy (Michele Manfroni).