TEMPEST (Technological EconoMic Political Energy Systems Transition) is a multi-scale model of the UK’s energy demand and supply system.


TEMPEST (Technological EconoMic Political Energy Systems Transition) is a multi-scale model of the UK’s energy demand and supply system. It focuses on the transition of the energy system to be completely decarbonised in line with the Paris Agreement (e.g. by 2080), with an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050 (meeting the targets in the Climate Change Act 2008), and potential for faster reductions if needed to meet the 1.5°C target.

TEMPEST is being developed as part of the O-STET project, in which UCL’s Energy Institute is partnering with the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex (SPRU) and the Energy Systems Catapult.

The model builds on the findings of BLUE (the Behaviour, Lifestyles and Uncertainty Energy model), widening the boundary to include additional factors that have been identified as important to achieving real-world success in energy transition – political, socio-technical, and techno-economic.

The intention behind TEMPEST is that the model will be able to represent historical patterns in energy transition and provide new insights about reasons for the direction and pace of transition. The model will be used to explore future scenarios towards achieving decarbonisation goals and under a highly uncertain future.

Diagram of TEMPEST model

The design of TEMPEST is based on a meta-theoretical framework that identifies nine modules of types of activities or artefacts, all of which are an essential element of the energy system. Each module draws upon one or more established theories, using the key concepts and relationships from the theories and linking them together in a causal way within the larger framework. The modelling methodology is multi-scale.

At the lower scale (bottom-up) agent-based interactions influence the direction of certain social trends, political actions, and the purchase and use of mass end-use equipment such as light bulbs; changes are relatively quick.

At the aggregated scale are stocks and flows of power sector infrastructure and power usage patterns, and political systems and goals that influence aspects such as technology innovation and energy demand; changes are relatively slow (years to decades).

The model outputs will include total greenhouse gas emissions, total energy demand, and the changing characteristics of power sector infrastructure and end-use technologies.    

A set of heat decarbonisation scenarios will be developed as an input to the model by our partners at the University of Sussex. These scenarios will use the theory of branching points to explore possible future pathways for rapid heat decarbonisation across the UK’s domestic and non-domestic building stocks, taking into account wider social and political issues. 

The expected outcomes from TEMPEST include:

  • A better understanding of the importance and role of political and social factors in energy transition
  • New theory on the dynamics that can lead to unexpected or non-linear change in energy systems
  • The trajectories that energy transition might take in the UK under different technical, political and social changes
  • Deeper insight into the heat decarbonisation challenge

Model summary

Type:Multiscale; stock and flow system dynamics modelling, including feedback loops and exogenous factors, linked to agent based modules that represent emergent effects from individual actors interacting
Purpose:Exploring the dynamics of energy system behaviour under transition due to technological, social (including economic) and political changes, and the causal interactions between them.
Spatial scale:UK
Temporal scale:1980 – 2018 (historical) and 2018 – 2070 (future), in annual time steps
Main contacts:Rachel Freeman, Francis Li, Neil Strachan
Other contacts at University of Sussex:Tim Foxon, Kat Lovell