Trends in tools and approaches for modelling the energy transition

Miguel Chang*, Jakob Zink Thellufsen, Behnam Zakeri, Bryn Pickering, Stefan Pfenninger, Henrik Lund, Poul Alberg Østergaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Energy system models are crucial to plan energy transition pathways and understand their impacts. A vast range of energy system modelling tools is available, providing modelling practitioners, planners, and decision-makers with multiple alternatives to represent the energy system according to different technical and methodological considerations. To better understand this landscape, here we identify current trends in the field of energy system modelling. First, we survey previous review studies, identifying their distinct focus areas and review methodologies. Second, we gather information about 54 energy system modelling tools directly from model developers and users. Unlike previous questionnaire-based studies solely focusing on technical descriptions, we include application aspects of the modelling tools, such as perceived policy-relevance, user accessibility, and model linkages. We find that, to assess the possible applications and to build a common understanding of the capabilities of these modelling tools, it is necessary to engage in dialogue with developers and users. We identify three main trends of increasing modelling of cross-sectoral synergies, growing focus on open access, and improved temporal detail to deal with planning future scenarios with high levels of variable renewable energy sources. However, key challenges remain in terms of representing high resolution energy demand in all sectors, understanding how tools are coupled together, openness and accessibility, and the level of engagement between tool developers and policy/decision-makers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116731
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Energy models
  • Energy system analysis
  • Energy system modelling tool
  • Review
  • Survey


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