The 2050 Web tool lets you create your own UK emissions reduction pathway, and see the impact using real UK data. This page shows the impact on total UK energy demand, energy supply and greenhouse gas emissions.
If this is the first time you have heard of the DECC 2050 pathways calculator, you may wish to start by getting an overview of the work from the DECC web pages: www.decc.gov.uk/2050.
Overview of the screen
Figure 1: Screenshot of the all energy page on the 2050 web tool
A - These are the controls that you use to choose what sort of energy system and action on climate change you would like to see. Click on the numbers 1 to 4 or letters A to C to try out different choices. Click on the name (e.g., 'nuclear') for a one page summary of the choice you are making.
B - The left chart shows UK final energy demand from industry, transport, etc,. If you move your mouse over the chart a label will appear, telling you what that area represents. The centre chart shows UK primary energy demand by fuel (e.g., oil, gas, nuclear). The right chart shows greenhouse gases produced in the UK.
C - The dotted white line across the emissions chart indicates the level that would be equivalent to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gasses. Note that this isn't quite the same as the UK target, because this tool includes a share of emissions from international aviation and shipping.
D - Once you have used the controls to choose a pathway, you can use this menu to see its impact on electricity generation, energy security, on energy flows through the economy (a sankey diagram), the area of land and see that is taken up, on air quality (these results are provisional) on cost (these results are provisional) and then the story tab contains a description of your chosen energy system.
E - As an alternative to choosing your own pathway, you can use this menu to see other people's pathways.
F - You can bookmark your pathway, share it with other people, or transfer it into the more powerful excel version of this tool using the share option.
A - The controls
Each of the 42 controls represent a decision we need to take about the UK energy system. There are two types: those labeled 1,2,3,4 and those labeled A, B, C, D. In both cases, if you click on the name of the control (e.g., domestic transport behaviour or nuclear power), you will be taken to a one page summary of the decision. If you want to know more about the decision you can download the excel model or the original 2050 pathways analysis report.
Levels 1,2,3 & 4
- Level 1: assumes little or no attempt to decarbonise or change or only short run efforts; and that unproven low carbon technologies are not developed or deployed.
- Level 2: describes what might be achieved by applying a level of effort that is likely to be viewed as ambitious but reasonable by most or all experts. For some sectors this would be similar to the build rate expected with the successful implementation of the programmes or projects currently in progress.
- Level 3: describes what might be achieved by applying a very ambitious level of effort that is unlikely to happen without significant change from the current system; it assumes significant technological breakthroughs.
- Level 4: describes a level of change that could be achieved with effort at the extreme upper end of what is thought to be physically plausible by the most optimistic observer. This level pushes towards the physical or technical limits of what can be achieved.
The levels 1-4 depend on the lead time and build rate of new energy infrastructure, and different assumptions about how quickly and on what scale the infrastructure can be rolled out. The higher levels also depend on improvements in technology, such as floating wind turbines and carbon capture and storage. The build rates will in practice depend not only on the physical possibilities, but also on investment decisions by the companies involved, as well as wider international developments and public acceptance.
It should be recognised that even at level 2, the consequences of pursuing this effort across several different sectors in parallel will place a high demand on supply chains and skills, especially given that other countries are likely to be undertaking concurrent infrastructure changes.
Levels A, B, C & D
Where the changes described reflect a choice rather than a scale, they are described as trajectories A, B, C, D; these choices cannot be compared between sectors.
For example, we could derive energy from a biomass (a lump of wood) in different ways – we could leave it as a solid fuel, or turn it into a liquid or a gas.
What do we mean by level 1.3?
Some choices permit decimal points. These are linear interpolations. So, if level 1 has 10 GW of something and level 2 has 20 GW of something, then level 1.3 would have 13 GW.
Note that in these cases the descriptive bubbles that appear when you hover your mouse over a choice will be wrong.
To select a decimal level, repeatedly click on a choice (e.g., if you click level 2 it will first show 2, then click again and it will show 1.9, again and it will show 1.8). This only works for some energy supply choices (e.g., nuclear power)
B - The charts
For each of these charts, you can see what the colours or lines mean by moving your mouse over the chart. You can also zoom into the chart by clicking, holding and dragging across the chart.
UK energy demand
The left most chart shows the final energy demand that the system calculates for the energy system you have chosen, between now and 2050. The unit is TWh which is a billion kWh, the unit you may be familiar with from your gas and electricity bills.
When thinking about the energy demand, it is worth bearing in mind three assumptions:
- that the UK population grows 25% to 77 million by 2050,
- that the number of households grows faster to increase by 50% to 40 million by 2050
- that UK GDP grows even faster, more than doubling to £3 trillion by 2050.
The analysis is calibrated against 2007 data. We hope to update the analysis to more recent data soon.
UK energy supply
The middle chart shows the primary energy that is used to meet UK energy demand. The unit is again TWh, which is a billion kWh. The analysis starts with the fuel mix as it was in 2007 and then takes into account your choices.
If your choices would result in insufficient primary energy supply to meet your chosen energy demand, then the model assumes that sufficient natural gas, oil and coal are imported to cover any shortfall.
If your choices would result in too few power stations to meet electricity demand, then the model assumes natural gas power stations will be built.
Please note that it is very easy to make choices that supply more energy than the UK needs. The calculator doesn't stop this happening, so your supply chart total can be much higher than the demand chart total.
UK greenhouse gas emissions
The right chart shows the greenhouse gases emitted in the UK in the unit of million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The largest component is fuel combustion, which results from burning fuels in homes, businesses, vehicles, industry and power stations.
Unlike many pieces of analysis, this chart also shows:
- Non-CO2 greenhouse gases (methane etc) in CO2 equivalents
- Emissions that don't relate to energy production, such as from industrial processes, waste and agriculture
- A share of emissions from international aviation and shipping (even though these are not part of the UK emissions target)
Similar to many other pieces of analysis this chart shows emissions generated in the UK. It does not include emissions generated in other countries in order to manufacture goods that we import. It does include emissions to reflect goods that the UK exports.
A complication in this chart is 'negative emissions'. The thick black line on the chart is the total which is the 'positive' emissions minus the 'negative emissions'. The analysis has chosen to:
- count bio-energy as generating CO2 emissions when burnt and then to assume that an exactly equivalent amount was removed from the atmosphere when the plant was grown.
- count carbon capture and storage as generating CO2 emissions for the full amount of fuel burnt, and then assuming an appropriate amount of negative emissions to offset the proportion that will be captured and stored.
C - The 80% line
The white dashed line indicates an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels, including all the sectors in the greenhouse gas emissions chart.
This is not quite the same as the UK's legally binding target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2050. The difference is because the UK's target currently excludes international aviation and shipping.
D - See implications
You can explore some of the wider implications of your pathway by using this menu:
- All energy - total UK energy demand, supply and greenhouse gas emissions
- Electricity - the size of the electricity sector and its emissions.
- Flows - how energy would flow through the UK in 2050
- Area - the amount of UK land required by different energy supply technologies in your pathways
- Story - a short written summary of your pathway.
Some of the implication are under development. Their results should be treated with some caution, and we are actively seeking feedback to make them better:
- Air quality
- Costs in context
- Costs compared
- Cost sensitivity
E - Example pathways
You can use this menu to see pathways defined by other people.
The first three do not tackle climate change:
- All at level 1 - Leaves all choices at level 1 or alternative A
- Maximum demand - Sets all demand side choices at level 4 or alternative D, leaves supply side choices at level 1 or alternative A
- Maximum supply - Sets all supply side choices at level 4 or alternative D, leaves demand side choices at level 1 or alternative A
The next four represent pathways that are discussed in DECC's Carbon Plan
- Analagous to Markal 3.26
- Carbon Plan Pathway: Higher CCS, More Bioenergy
- Carbon Plan Pathway: Higher Renewables, More Energy Efficiency
- Carbon Plan Pathway: Higher Nuclear, Less Energy Efficiency
The final five represent pathways proposed by different individuals:
- Mark Brinkley - Expert Pathway
- Atkins - Expert Pathway
- National Grid - Expert Pathway
- Campaign To Protect Rural England - Expert Pathway
- Friends Of The Earth - Expert Pathway
F - Share
On the latest versions of web browsers, the url at the top of the page uniquely identifies your pathway and can therefore be bookmarked and emailed. On older browsers the url does not change as you alter your pathway. You then need to use the 'share' button to generate a url that you can share.
On that page are also options for emailing the pathway url and sharing it on various social networks.
A third choice is to copy and paste your chosen pathway into the excel model.