UCL Energy Institute


The role of the scientific model in policy imagery: MARKAL as boundary object


19 April 2013

The MARKAL least-cost energy system model is used internationally to analyse the development of energy systems. In the UK, MARKAL modelling has underpinned government energy and latterly climate policy since the early 2000s. Here we detail use of the model in different UK policy venues, highlighting the attributes that arguably contribute to its role as a successful ‘boundary object’ that makes it of value to different but interconnecting energy policy communities. We suggest that changing images of the energy policy problem have enabled MARKAL to shift from an initial role in energy technology assessment to playing a key role in target-oriented climate policy. Despite differing use of MARKAL in differing policy venues, reflecting differing institutional logics and priorities, the ability to perform different roles for different social groups has served to embed and institutionalise the model in the energy policy community as a whole. Moreover, the ability of the model to represent technological options in detail has accorded with a technological focus that has suited prevailing, shared conceptions of the energy-climate policy problem.

The role of the scientific model in policy imagery: MARKAL as boundary object.

Upham, P., Taylor, P.G., Christopherson, D., McDowall, W.A.S. (2013)

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