Impact of technology uncertainty on future low-carbon pathways in the UK

Birgit Fais*, Ilkka Keppo, Marianne Zeyringer, Will Usher, Hannah Daly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Energy and climate policy-making requires strong quantitative scientific evidence to devise robust and consistent long-term decarbonisation strategies. Energy system modelling can provide crucial insights into the inherent uncertainty in such strategies, which needs to be understood when designing appropriate policy measures. This study contributes to the growing research area of uncertainty analysis in energy system models. We combine consistent and realistic narratives on several technology dimensions with a global sensitivity analysis in a national, bottom-up, optimizing energy system model. This produces structured insights into the impact of low-carbon technology and resource availability on the long-term development of the UK energy system under ambitious decarbonisation pathways. We explore a variety of result metrics to present policy-relevant results in a useful and concise manner. The results provide valuable information on the variability of fuel and technology use across the uncertainty space (e.g. a strong variation in natural gas demand). We demonstrate the complementarities and substitutability of technologies (e.g. the dependency of hydrogen technologies on the availability of CCS). We highlight critical low-carbon options and hedging strategies (e.g. the early decarbonisation of the electricity sector or the stronger use of renewable sources as a hedging against failure in other technologies) and demonstrate timing and path dependencies (e.g. the importance of early decarbonisation action in the presence of multiple technology uncertainty). The results also show how the availability of a given technology can have wider impacts elsewhere in the energy system, thus complicating the management of a long-term energy transition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-168
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy Strategy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Emission reduction
  • Energy systems analysis
  • Low-carbon technologies
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Uncertainty

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