About my research

The objective of my research is to explore how markets can be designed and operated to support the North Sea and wider EU energy transitions. The idea is to develop models that move away from traditional central optimization-based approaches towards models that include the complexities of real-world gas, electricity and other energy markets, including: imperfect competition, barriers to trade, and neighbouring jurisdictions with different market mechanisms.

The models considered are (partial) equilibrium models, cast as mathematical problems with equilibrium constraints (MPECs). The method selected is Complementarity Modelling of Energy Markets and in conjunction with more qualitative analysis, the models will then be used to identify market designs and energy transition policy implications/recommendations and address the use of model results in project selection and sanction.

In addition a comparative analysis between the different modelling approaches will be investigated i.e. agent-based and large-scale optimization will be compared to complementarity modelling methods, to see how the models perform side by side and understand how these models can be used collectively or independently to address energy policy challenges and to support infrastructure changes, prioritize projects of common interest and estimate capacity investments and enable appraisal and comparison of these investment choices given the various scenarios and within the rules, regulations and constraints or targets as set by the European Energy Union.

What is your research focusing on?

My research is focused on Market Designs to support Low Carbon Energy transitions in the North Sea Region. After reviewing the EU Energy Union policy and market reform proposals to support future Energy Systems, the research investigated how best to model and communicate the potential effect on energy prices for the future energy system. The research questions were designed to address the impact of: interconnection between countries, integration of renewables and the use of large scale energy storage. However to do this we need to consider the complexity and of the energy system and market design opportunities. This can be best captured in the following image which represents the vision of the future energy system (reprinted with kind permission from ARUP).

The vision of Future Energy Systems 2035 (Reprinted with kind permission from ARUP). Click on image to enlarge.

The main challenge of the research is to construct mathematical models that capture the realism, complexity and more importantly the investment opportunities of the future energy system. We need to select and understand the various models in order to apply the results and associated analysis or assessment to support the policy process and enhance decision making methods.

Our research is primarily focused on how to model interconnection and easily integrate renewable energy and utility of storage. All this while managing existing assets and reliable operation of the system throughout the transition. To do this we need to check if the models available could model the future energy system and check if alternative tools and techniques are better suited to overcome the technical and economic challenges we face, whilst simultaneously taking advantage of the opportunities that a low carbon energy system offers.

By ESR Andrew Kilmartin – email: andrew.kilmartin@ed.ac.uk

What has amazed you in your research so far?

So far I have been amazed at the sheer ambition and change that is required to realize the future energy system vision and the research and innovative efforts undertaken and ongoing to enable transformation to a Low Carbon system. This is a complex and significant challenge, especially considering the intricacies of interconnected grids, radical change in energy use and future energy mix that is envisaged.

There is significant mathematical complexity involved in modelling energy systems to address future challenges and changes, especially when we consider interconnection and storage. Further compounded by sector and market coupling and the decisions regarding centralized or decentralized grids. To support this a significant number of model types and various: applications, approaches, tools and techniques that have been developed and explored to model energy systems and analyze energy markets. The advent of open source modelling and access to models and data is a major breakthrough but for me and possibly many others, the challenge is to understand how the energy system challenges are framed, how the models are built and how we can use the results to support the policy process and decision makers where timing and implementation is prone to technological and socio-economic uncertainty and risk.

How will your secondments benefit your research?

Currently I am on exchange at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, where I am able to gain insight into their modelling methods and energy system analysis. At the moment I am getting acquainted with integrated assessment models, agent based modelling methods and looking into large scale optimization models. The purpose of the exchange is to get an appreciation of how the different models work and how different models can be combined or used in the policy making and decision making processes during the energy transition.

Future secondments are planned where I will return to industry and work with government agencies. The main aim of the secondment is to learn how to build and use the models and develop a reliable data set and more importantly deliver results that can be used and to learn how to analyse and communicate the model results. The secondments are primarily designed give the opportunity to see first-hand how models are developed and applied in national research agencies to create government policy and furthermore witness how the policy is then used in industrial decision making to shape the transition efforts of energy companies.

How would you like to continue your research after the ENSYSTRA project?

For me the best option would be to apply the modelling and research skills and tools I have acquired within industry where I could be a more informed stakeholder in the decision or policy process. That way I could better assist to scope or frame the modelling to address the requirements to support policy implementation and address the transition challenges and decisions we face. We need every tool in the box to tackle this challenge but for me it is important that we understand how the tools work, how to use the tools and develop techniques to select the correct tool for the task at hand. This will ultimately affect how we interpret and use the results in the policy and decision process.

What exciting developments do you want to reach in the near future?

For now I am happy to gain exposure to as many models and methods as possible, which helps develop my own understanding of the complementarity model we are developing. The exchange with Chalmers is crucial to my understudy of agent based and large scale optimization models for comparative analysis purposes. After completion of my exchange I will finalize the data base to support the modelling and comparative analysis. Once completed the results concerning impact on energy prices can be assessed and market design to best support the transition considered.

All of this will be captured in a research and conference papers and a description of approach and preliminary results will be presented at the ENSYSTRA conference which is planned 2Q 2021.


  1. ARUP Shaping a better world. Energy Systems: A view from 2035: What will the future Energy Market look like?

If you have any questions of queries, please direct them to the author Andrew Kilmartin or the ENSYSTRA Project Manager Dirk Kuiken or Deborah Groeneweg.

If you are interested in the specifics of the 15 research projects, you can find summaries and video explanations from the researchers here.

Our project is supported by 23 industry partner institutions.

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