Developing whole system energy scenarios for Scottish Government

Scotland’s world-leading ambitions to decarbonise by 2045, place it at the forefront of a Just Transition towards ‘a fairer greener future for all’. As the journey to Net Zero gains pace, the Scottish Government and ClimateXChange (CXC) commissioned Energy Systems Catapult to construct a set of country specific scenarios that would inform the energy, social, and economic policies required to achieve the interim 2030 and the 2045 decarbonisation goals.

As a country with rich natural resources, the project aimed to capture the broader benefits unique to Scotland and develop whole system energy scenarios. This would help the Scottish Government understand their future path, support its Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan and bring stakeholders and the Scottish people along on the next stages of the journey.

The Challenge

Scotland has unique opportunities in energy thanks to world-class research centres, renewable energy resources and a history of leadership in energy project development. Scotland’s Net Zero targets also mean that energy policy decision-making needs to consider a range of possible future pathways to meet climate ambitions.

Consideration must be given to the traditional energy sectors, such as oil, gas, and petrochemicals, and how their role might change as Scotland transitions to a net zero economy. But, new ways of heating homes, transporting goods and people, and powering industry will only be possible with innovations in areas such as electrification, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), and hydrogen. These will need to be supported by new infrastructure, suitable policy and a well-trained workforce armed with the skills necessary for the transition.

From a Governmental perspective, energy scenario planning can support strategic decision making in relation to critical infrastructure. Robust planning is essential, as is the need to identify no/low regrets technologies required to achieve the future pathways

The Innovation

The Catapult delivered three Scotland-specific whole energy system scenarios nested in the wider UK energy system, relevant to the Scottish energy sector. These scenarios were structured within a logical framework, and informed by stakeholder engagement, a review of existing literature (including Energy Systems Catapult’s existing research), and robust evidence gathering.

Insights were gathered through qualitative narratives and quantitative technical analysis using the Catapult’s proprietary Energy Systems Modelling Environment (ESME) model. The Catapult were able to leverage whole system market insights and analysis to provide independent final scenarios and detailed narratives. Furthermore, the Catapult translated what the modelling means practically and provided a pathway for future development.

The Solution

  • The Catapult’s UK-wide ESME methodology allowed inputs, targets, and constraints for Scotland to be fully customisable, ensuring a set of three coherent, internally consistent Scottish energy system scenarios.
  • Because ESME represents the different regions of the UK, the Catapult could model a rich representation of Scottish import/export energy flows across the entire UK energy system. This included electricity and hydrogen flows across the border with England, transmission of electricity from different offshore resources, and offshore piping and storage of CO2.

ESME also accounts for non-energy emissions such as land use, which is crucial in ensuring a coherent economy-wide Net Zero scenario.


  • The three scenarios modelled show how Scotland can meet its 2030 and 2045 decarbonisation targets, and how those scenarios can be leveraged UK-wide to help the rest of the country meet its Net Zero targets.
  • The scenarios help Scottish Government think through the practical and legislative priorities that will help the country achieve its 2030 and 2045 targets, by exploring the pathways, decisions, and policies that will get Scotland to the positive end state.
  • The scenario tool helped identify key interdependencies in Scotland’s energy system, helping to inform actions set out in Scotland’s draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.

Next Steps 

The key observations from the modelling results suggest:

  • Power sector decarbonisation is critical with renewables playing a leading role in any future Scottish power system. But urgent progress is needed on CCUS to provide low-carbon, firm generating capacity in the mid-term.
  • Electricity and hydrogen are likely to be the two most important energy vectors in a Net Zero Scotland regardless of the route to transition taken. Furthermore, Scotland has the potential to be a key provider of electricity for the UK as a whole.
  • Rapid electrification of residential and non-domestic heat is needed if reliance on gas boilers is to be reduced. Heat pumps are a crucial technology to do this.

The debate in Scotland has been enhanced with stakeholders across industry, academia, consultancies, the energy networks, and local authorities. All of which are engaged and talking about the next phases of the journey.

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