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More problems with the 2050 calculator

Tim Worstall keeps turning up amazing new facts about DECC's 2050 calculator. He has been digging through the spreadsheets underlying the model and has got stuck:

I've looked around the DECC spreadsheet trying to find the price assumptions they make about natural gas and other fossil fuels. And I'm afraid I just can't find it, just can't find it at all. Cannot see what prices they have assumed, whether they've got a version that deals with the implication of having lots and lots and lots of very cheap natural gas or not.

And I have a very strong feeling that that is one of the possibilities that they should tell us the results of. For they are telling us that whatever we do is going to cost £200 billion or more in the coming years, £5,000 per year per household. And we know that building gas fired power stations is cheaper than almost any other form of energy generation. So if we are floating on that much gas and we can get it for something like the American price, might that not reduce the costs per household?

The lack of transparency in the 2050 model's assumptions is quite, quite extraordinary.

Can anyone else smell something fishy?

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Reader Comments (25)

DECC is simply shilling its tiresome Green/Left ideology -- the facts are entirely secondary to that imperative.

Jan 3, 2012 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

As the Prime Minister nearly said, there are points that should be taken from all this. The fish rots from the head, which is long overdue for removal.

Jan 3, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

The assumptions and costs seem to come from the previous report (Costs in Annex) From the DECC page

Read the original analysis

The 2050 Pathways Analysis [filetype:pdf filesize: 5108.88Kb]* was first published in 2010, with experts from businesses, NGOs, technical fields and academics helping Government to produce the original work. Since then, both the Calculator tool and accompanying analysis have developed considerably, with the support of a wide range of stakeholders.


At least this shows what they are, if only cited as "Source:DECC fossil fuel price assumptions", however that doesn't cover which of the low/central/high/high-high scenarios was used. It may be in the report but at 250 pages I haven't read it yet.

Jan 3, 2012 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterVerity Jones

Here's the relevant table for those who don't want to download:
Fuel cost assumptions (2009 prices)
2010 2020 2030 2040
Low oil (£/bbl) 51 61 61 61
Central oil (£/bbl) 71 81 91 91
High oil (£/bbl) 85 122 122 122
High-High oil (£bbl) 104 152 152 152
Low coal (£/tonne) 81 51 51 51
Central coal (£/tonne) 111 81 81 81
High coal(£/tonne) 122 101 101 101
High-High coal (£/tonne) 132 132 132 132
Low gas (p/therm) 33 34 35 35
Central gas (p/therm) 59 68 75 75
High gas (p/therm) 71 98 98 98
High-High gas (p/therm) 85 121 121 121

Jan 3, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterVerity Jones


that doesn't cover which of the low/central/high/high-high scenarios was used. It may be in the report but at 250 pages I haven't read it yet.

You slacker!

It does sound as if the original claim in the Guardian that this latest calculator is 'open source' is a perverse joke. But many thanks for Tim, Verity and others for digging in.

Jan 3, 2012 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Those gas prices look exceptionally high to me, but I'm not up to speed on current gas supply contract prices.

BTW a useful energy unit converter is here

Jan 3, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Natural gas for February delivery settled on Friday at $2.989 per million British thermal units. One therm is equivalent to 100,000 British thermal units. So the Friday settlement price was $0.2989 per therm. Using an exchange rate of $1 = £0.642, the Friday settlement price was £0.2989x0.642 =£0.192 or 19.2p per therm. In a globalised economy, how does that square with the low gas price assumption in the DECC table (Verity Jones 10.42 AM) being assumed to be 33p per therm (or 70% higher than the current price)?

Jan 3, 2012 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

@ Pharos

"Those gas prices look exceptionally high to me, but I'm not up to speed on current gas supply contract prices."

On the contrary. In the last year Natural gas futures have dropped from 70+ p/therm to ~55p/therm. From here out to 2050, it's anyones guestimate, especially as one does not even dare mention 'shale gas' in govt circles.

(1 therm = 29.3071 kilowatt hours)

@Mike Post - don't convert from US prices. UK energy prices are higher.

Jan 3, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterVerity Jones

Jan 3, 2012 at 11:28 AM | Richard Drake

Oh. Open source means you can change the code as you please, not that you can figure it out.

Jan 3, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosualdo

It is one thing to use complex and impenetrable GCMs as a prop for social engineering, it is quite another to use simple and impenetrable spreadsheets! Only the most zealous would attempt the latter and hope to get away with it. So it is indeed a question of chercher le zealot.

Jan 3, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

In my experience those who develop extensive and complex spreadsheets (self included) think they are quite simple and easy to understand - intuitive even. Exchanging climate and temperature spreadsheets with people has taught me that others looking at mine never agree with me on that point even when I provide detailed explanations. Then they send me theirs and I am similarly at sea.

There's always some logic, but not necessarily the same logic as ours; I guess the reader needs to think like those who developed it for DECC. They're betting that we don't have the time to go into the necessary detail to understand the calculator and see its shortcomings.

Jan 3, 2012 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterVerity Jones


Oh. Open source means you can change the code as you please, not that you can figure it out.

Indeed. Of course to change it effectively and completely you need to figure it out. But one of the crucial lessons of the open source movement is that, very often, in order to start to figure it out, you should have a go at changing it. It's a very fruitful two-way street. But not in this case.

And where is the suite of unit tests in this case? That's a key assist in figuring out the meaning of any decent-sized open source project and is increasingly de rigeur in such circles.

Jan 3, 2012 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

@ Verity

Thanks. I'd love to know who DECC found to provide a 30-year oil price forecast, what their experience in this area is and most important what their record of accuracy is.

There is nobody to my knowledge who does this. Energy price forecasting is simply not intellectually respectable.

Jan 3, 2012 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka


Firstly, the real price of coal, gas, anything on the world market doesn't come into it: the government will regulate any low prices up to match their forecasts, using taxes and taxes on taxes. Just look at the price of petrol ...

Secondly - never forget that one of the dogma of the AGWers is that low energy prices are like handing a machine gun to a three-year-old. So expect to pay those £5,000 for as long as the AGWers are in government (doesn't matter which political party reigns).

Thirdly, should the energy costs happen to go down everywhere but here, expect the government to gracefully reduce some of the taxes, so that we can be made to feel suitably grateful and elect them again.

And anyway - all those bureaucrats have wife and kids they need to feed, you can't be so cruel and take the bread from their mouths by foolishly insisting on cheap, unregulated energy!

Jan 3, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

The Carbon Plan: Delivering our low carbon future

In my considered opinion, a w##k.

Jan 3, 2012 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

I've just commented on Tim's site "Tim, there are some "Cost of gas" assumptions in tab XV.b, rows 125-132.".
The low cost of gas used is 44p/therm until 2015 and 45p thereafter.

Jan 3, 2012 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRogerT

@ Viv Evans

Good one - especially #1.

£5,000 a year is what the bureaucrats reckon the 'average person' can afford (while learning to live without many of the necessities of today luxuries they currently take for granted). In reality it will cost more as we have to find ways to support the 'fuel poor' and 'food poor' - for example those who don't have public sector pensions.

Watch what happens as the various bubbles continue to burst in 2012.

Jan 3, 2012 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterVerity Jones


I do hope you weren't talking about my excellently documented spreadsheets ;-)?

I'm also looking forward to quite a few more bubbles bursting in 2012. The end of the euro is just weeks away now and hopefully shortly after that we finally see the end of the EU in its current form.


Jan 3, 2012 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevinUK

Martin A,

You may think "The Carbon Plan: Delivering our low carbon future" is a w##k, I think it's shocking and rather scary, not the least because it shows the government inhabiting a fantasy world.

Jan 3, 2012 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Actually, I think this is a wonderful illustration that the general public can readily relate to. Start with a conclusion then devise a cryptic model that no one can figure out and make certain that every time the model is run it reinforces your pre-conceived ideas. As art imitates life, climate economics imitates climate science.

Jan 3, 2012 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean

'The Carbon Plan' does indeed seem to come from some alternative universe, one designed by teams of PR-specialists and assorted fantasists and fanatics created by speculations about additional carbon dioxide that have yet to enjoy the support of any discernible impact on climate. In my universe - I speak only for myself mind - we'd have had a plan by now in the UK to encourage rapid development of advanced coal and gas fired power stations for the huge export market as well as for our own use. We might anticipate their starting to become redundant in maybe 50 to 100 years or so, but what a great contribution to develoopment they would make in the meantime. And to our own economy and competitiveness.

Jan 3, 2012 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Sean Jan 3, 2012 at 4:32 PM

....make certain that every time the model is run it reinforces your pre-conceived ideas.

Like Dr. Mann's method of principal components analysis?

Jan 3, 2012 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Fishy? A state created convenient factoid calculator? What could possibly be fishy about that?

They are just helping the little people understand that 2 + 2 = 5.

Jan 3, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

The Climategate II emails exposes the fact that the temperature data and other data used to generate the computer models "proving" AGW were in main manipulated to get the results the Climate Scientists wanted. Than, to add insult to injury, the raw data was discarded due to the fact said scientists knew if their data was used for the purpose of reproducing their results their shenanigans would be there for all to see. If not for all the corruption in government and their co-conspirators the media, all these AGW scaremongers would be in court being sued by now for their manipulation of the data. In reality, the real reason Maekay and his ilk are forcing everyone to live a green lifestyle is not because they fear AGW (they know AGW is in large part based on faked data) it is because they hate the Western lifestyle and want us all to live like the North Koreans do, cold, starving and bowing to our dear leaders.

Jan 3, 2012 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMary

plase see this link:

Jan 4, 2012 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorge c.

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