History of the Calculator

The Global Calculator is really a spin-off of the successful 2050 Calculator energy modelling methodology that started in the UK and has spread around the world.

The Calculator story began in the UK in 2009, when the UK government's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was tasked with coming up with a plan to meet the world's first legally binding emissions target (an 80% reduction by 2050 based on a 1990 baseline). Because there was so much uncertainty about what technologies would be available in the future, the team decided to build a new tool to explore all the options available, rather than using existing models that determine an optimum pathway. This was called the 2050 Pathways Calculator.

A number of "key messages" from the Calculator were published - lessons learnt from all pathways that meet the 2050 target. These were then used to develop the Carbon Plan, the government's overall emission reduction strategy, in 2011. A simplified version of the Calculator called My2050 was developed aimed at the general public. Over 17,000 people have submitted pathways using this site, giving a unique insight into public opinion on the energy transition.

Since then, around 20 countries, regions and territories have adopted a similar approach and have built or are building their own calculators to help inform policy and increase public understanding of energy issues. This began with the Belgian region of Wallonia, and was quickly followed by China. In 2012 DECC received funding from the International Climate Fund to support 10 developing countries to build calculators using locally based teams, as well as to build the Global Calculator. You can see a full list of countries on the DECC Calculator website.

What makes the Calculator special?

Each Calculator project has been unique, reflecting the individual circumstances and requirements of a country or territory. But the common features of these Calculators - and the Global Calculator - are:

  • Completely open source - the underlying model (built in Excel) and documentation are published.
  • Relatively simple, engineering-based models designed for scenario testing.
  • User friendly web-based interface means that non-experts can use them.
  • Shows the full range of potential ambition across sectors using a level 1-4 approach.
  • Involves external experts in the build of the tool.
  • Models are published as public "calls for evidence" on their data and approach.