Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


Update on open-source energy system modeling in the global south and including Africa

A number of open‑source energy system models are now active in the global south and this presentation provides an update.

Energy system models are simulations of future energy systems that can be used to test scenarios. More specifically, such models can explore a range of net‑zero options in an integrated fashion, determine which scenarios are feasible, and then report on system development trajectories, detailed and aggregate costs, and related attributes for further consideration. Many of the underlying modeling frameworks are now fully‑fledged open‑source projects. In addition, there are several nascent initiatives to develop coherent databanks and also the overarching data standards they require, with both endeavors suitably open licensed.

These various efforts are now starting to spill into the global south generally and sub‑Saharan Africa in particular. A number of potential benefits then arise from this kind of open analysis. The first is the zero monetary cost of course. The next is organic knowledge transfer both northward and southward within the various project communities. A third is doubtless that a greater range of scenarios will be placed on the table — indeed I sense that the multilateral agencies working in Africa have settled on a selected set of solutions and that suggestions that fall outside the prevailing orthodoxy are unwarranted and unwanted. A fourth potential advantage is local engagement, and further, the prospects of improved local autonomy — and while there are no examples of model‑mediated public processes in the global south as yet, that concept is being trialed in the global north.

The use of open analysis in the global south will offer distinctive challenges nonetheless. The most obvious difficulty is data availability and a number of proxy solutions have been developed. The next is how best to channel these efforts into public policy formation and then on to live projects. Also critical will be the necessity of finding new ways of interacting between official agencies and these clearly informal modeling communities.

Two of the leading open‑source framework projects, OSeMOSYS and PyPSA, have begun significant efforts to broaden into the global south. These two initiative will be reviewed (I am not directly involved in either).

Clearly early days still but sufficient progress has been made to warrant an update at FOSDEM'23.


Photo of Robbie Morrison Robbie Morrison