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The future of energy: on tour with the 2050 calculator

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DECC’s energy modelling tool, the 2050 calculator, has achieved notable success in the UK and is becoming increasingly influential overseas. It is because of its growing international role that I recently found myself on a whistle stop tour of Vietnam, Laos and China to help promote it.

First up was Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) in Vietnam. Following the recent launch of the country's calculator, the purpose of visiting the nation’s biggest city was to explore how it will be used. Discussions at an event organised by the British embassy highlighted interest from various Vietnamese provinces in creating a regional version to shape their future energy planning.

Attention then turned to neighbouring Laos, a country with a smaller population than HCM, but with a strong interest in cutting emissions and managing their energy more effectively. At a 2050 calculator event in the capital, Vientiane, I introduced the benefits of the tool to an audience of officials, NGOs and media. This was followed by an afternoon of meetings with key government departments to outline the purpose of the calculator and how Laos can benefit from developing their own version.

It was a team effort, with support from British embassy (only recently reinstated after a gap of over twenty years) and a group from Thailand who shared their experience of producing their own calculator and the benefits it has brought their country.

After a positive reaction to the initial meetings, the embassy will now continue government discussions to try and agree a process for creating a Laos calculator.

Finally, the trip moved out of South East Asia and on to the Chinese capital, Beijing, where the focus switched from perhaps the smallest country to consider using the calculator to the launch of the global version.

This took place at the same time as a London event, with an audience representing media, government and the energy sector. A recorded video from the Secretary of State got things underway and I provided a short demonstration of the new calculator in action.

Questions from the audience were supportive and highlighted an appetite to see the calculator as a ‘live’ tool that constantly evolves as new data emerges. Outside of the room there was huge media interest, both in China and back in the UK (for example, this article from the BBC).

A world away from the launch, I’m sitting in Frankfurt airport as I write this (waiting for a connecting flight home) and am reminded of Germany’s energiewende – a high profile commitment to clean energy. But they are not alone in their ambition to change. Looking back at my trip it’s clear that the work of the 2050 calculator team is helping to highlight an increasing number of countries who regard energy – and cutting emissions – as a key part of their future.

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