Developing an open source energy model

The IIASA Energy Program (ENE) has developed a new generation of its modeling platform MESSAGEix, which is now available under an open source license. The model is used for research applications, as well as for capacity building in IIASA member countries and teaching at universities.

The MESSAGE Integrated Assessment Model developed by ENE has been a central tool in energy-environment-economy systems analysis in the global scientific- and policy arena. It plays a major role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports; it provided marker scenarios of the Representative Concentration Pathways and the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways; and underpinned the analysis of the Global Energy Assessment.

To stay at the frontier of model development, numerical models of human and earth systems need to support higher spatial and temporal resolution, better integrate diverse data sources and methodologies, and become more open and transparent. To deal with these challenges, ENE developed a new modeling platform, called MESSAGEix, which is available under an open source license that facilitates external collaboration and joint model development. This new integrated assessment-modeling platform consists of four building blocks, including an open-source General Algebraic Modeling System (GAMS) implementation of the MESSAGE energy system model integrated with the MACRO economic model; a Java/database version-controlled data management repository; user interfaces for both the scientific programming languages Python and R for efficient input data and results processing workflows; and a web-based user interface for model/scenario management and intuitive drag-and-drop visualization of results.

Components and their interlinkages in the ix modeling platform [1]: web-based user interface, scientific programming interface, modeling platform, database backend, implementation of the MESSAGEix mathematical model formulation.

The framework aims for the highest level of openness of scientific analysis, bridging the need for transparency with efficient data processing and powerful numerical solvers. The platform is geared toward easy integration of data sources and models across disciplines, spatial scales, and temporal disaggregation levels. All tools apply best practice in collaborative software development and comprehensive documentation of all building blocks, while scripts are generated directly from the GAMS equations and the Java/Python/R source code.

At present, MESSAGEix is being used for building new integrated basin-level modeling tools to address the challenges of the water-energy-land nexus as part of the cross-cutting Integrated Solutions for Water, Energy, and Land (ISWEL) project. The model is also already actively being used by several research organizations in IIASA member countries, for example, the University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and TU Munich in Germany. ENE is also supporting government organizations in member countries to develop energy modeling capacity based on the MESSAGEix model, including the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) think tank in India and the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy, and Water Resources in Israel. Finally, in collaboration with universities, MESSAGEix is used for teaching energy and integrated assessment modeling, at, among others, TU Wien in Austria and Politechnico di Milano in Italy. For this purpose, ENE researchers have developed training materials, including a number of tutorials that are part of the MESSAGEix release.


[1] Huppmann D, Gidden M, Fricko O, Kolp P, Orthofer C, Pimmer M, Vinca A, Mastrucci A, et al. (2018). The MESSAGEix Integrated Assessment Model and the ix modeling platform (ixmp). Environmental Modelling & Software (In Press)

[2] Orthofer C, Huppmann D, & Krey V (2018). South Africa’s Shale Gas Resources – Chance or Challenge? Energy Policy (Submitted)

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