IMAGEIntegrated Model to Assess the Global Environment.

Air pollution and energy policies/Policy issues


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Model description

Most processes relevant for energy policy goals are directly related to the IMAGE energy model (Component Energy supply and demand). The relationship of these processes to the goals formulated for energy systems is presented in the figure below, which also provides examples of measures that can be taken in the system, and can be captured to some degree in the IMAGE system (see also the Policy intervention Tables ). 

Linkages between goals and measures for energy access, energy security, climate change and air pollution
Flowchart Air pollution and energy policies. Linkages between components of the IMAGE system, energy policy objectives and possible policy measures.

Policy issues

The energy system is described in Component Energy supply and demand, and emissions in Component Emissions. As indicated in the figure above, parts of the energy system are closely linked and thus achieving a specific policy goal has consequences for other goals. For instance, climate policies can lead to less use of fossil fuel, and thus also reduction in air pollution. How these goals are included in IMAGE is described briefly below. Policies are grouped by their purpose.

Global energy trade under the baseline and sustainability scenarios, 2050
Compared to the baseline, energy trade is significantly reduced under the sustainability scenarios (PBL, 2012).

Energy security policies

Baseline developments

While the concept of energy security is widely used, there is no consensus on its interpretation. Some focus on one aspect of energy security, such as resource estimates, reserve-to-production ratios, diversity indices and import dependence, while others attempt to capture several elements in a single aggregated index.

On the basis of IMAGE results, a wide set of indicators can be calculated to make a broad assessment of changes (Kruyt et al., 2009). IMAGE results show that in baseline scenarios without additional policy, depletion of known fossil resources accelerates as a result of increasing global demand. Oil production is projected to become increasingly concentrated in fewer producing countries in the 2010–2030 period. After 2030, the already existing trend towards unconventional oil (and gas) production will start to dominate and the market will diversify again. Under commonly used assumptions on resource assumptions, depletion dynamics for natural gas and certainly for coal play a small role in IMAGE results.

Policy interventions

IMAGE is used to explore policies to improve energy security, by imposing import restrictions, modifying fuel preferences and rising import taxes. The model is used to project the consequences of climate policy on energy security, and in fact scenarios show that climate policy has co-benefits that improve energy security. Possible benefits include reduced international trade, increased fuel diversity and slower depletion of fossil resources (PBL, 2012). This is shown in the figure (on the right) as trade is reduced as a consequence of climate policy, while trade in bioenergy increases. Analysis also shows that import restrictions mostly only have a temporary impact on energy security, leading to faster depletion of domestic resources, thus reducing long-term energy security (Kruyt et al., 2009).

Table: Policy interventions Energy security policies
Policy interventionDescriptionImplemented in/affected component
Restrictions on fuel trade As part of energy security policies, fuel trade between different regions can be blocked.
(*) Implementing component.

Energy access policies

Global household access to modern fuels for cooking and heating under a baseline scenario
A few key indicators show the trends for energy security, access, air pollution under a baseline scenario.

Baseline developments

IMAGE can also be used to consider energy access issues. The baseline scenario of the Rio+20 report shows that without additional policy by 2030, 2.6 billion people will continue to depend on solid fuels for cooking and heating and 1 billion people will have no access to electricity (PBL, 2012) (see Figure). Low energy access has been reported to lead to development issues and to environmental issues.

Policy interventions

The model defines access to modern energy sources for cooking and heating by either using modern fuels or improved biomass stoves. To make the transition, the IMAGE analysis include measures such as increased investments in the power grid (for access to electricity), fuel subsidies and grants, and micro-lending facilities for easier access to credit and lower borrowing costs for households (Van Ruijven et al., 2012). For households for which the shift from biomass may still be out of reach under the induced financial policies, improved biomass stoves are distributed as a cost-effective interim solution. The Roads from Rio+20 report (PBL, 2012), for instance, explored measures, such as subsidies and grid extension, to achieve 95 % grid connectivity and use of modern fuels for cooking and heating in 2030.

Table: Policy interventions Energy access policies
Policy interventionDescriptionImplemented in/affected component
Provision on improved stoves for traditional bio-energy Increases the efficiency of bio-energy use.
Subsidies on modern energy Reduces the costs of modern energy to reduce traditional energy use (can be targeted to low income groups).
(*) Implementing component.

Air pollution policies

Global household access to modern fuels for cooking and heating under a baseline scenario
A few key indicators show the trends for energy security, access, air pollution under a baseline scenario.

Baseline developments

Indoor and outdoor air pollution with negative health impacts are key issues for energy policies. IMAGE is used to explore air pollution policies, particularly in relation to climate policy. In the baseline scenario of the Rio+20 project, for instance, emissions of air pollutants remain at high levels globally (PBL, 2012) (see Figure). Black carbon emissions are projected to decrease towards 2050, while SO2 emissions remain constant and NOx emissions increase. Another key factor is the ageing population because the impacts of air pollution are felt stronger by the elderly.

Policy intervention

Emissions of air pollutants may be reduced by either a change in energy use or end-of-pipe abatement measures. In IMAGE, the first policy category can be modelled explicitly, for instance, as a result of climate policy. Many technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions also lead to less emissions of air pollutants. End-of-pipe policies can only be implemented by changing the emission factors (in an aggregated way). However, by relating the change in emission factors to those of more explicit air pollution models, it is possible to perform policy relevant experiments.

Table: Policy interventions Air pollution policies
Policy interventionDescriptionImplemented in/affected component
Implementation of sustainability criteria in bio-energy production Sustainability criteria that could become binding for dedicated bio-energy production, such as the restrictive use of water-scarce or degraded areas.
Carbon tax A tax on carbon leads to higher prices for carbon intensive fuels (such as fossil fuels), making low-carbon alternatives more attractive.
(*) Implementing component.

Combined air pollution and energy access policies

See description at Air pollution policies and at Energy access policies above.

Table: Policy interventions Combined air pollution and energy access policies
Policy interventionDescriptionImplemented in/affected component
Apply emission and energy intensity standards Apply emission intensity standards for e.g. cars (gCO2/km), power plants (gCO2/kWh) or appliances (kWh/hour).
Capacity targets It is possible to prescribe the shares of renewables, CCS technology, nuclear power and other forms of generation capacity. This measure influences the amount of capacity installed of the technology chosen.
Change market shares of fuel types Exogenously set the market shares of certain fuel types. This can be done for specific analyses or scenarios to explore the broader implications of increasing the use of, for instance, biofuels, electricity or hydrogen and reflects the impact of fuel targets.
Change the use of electricity and hydrogen It is possible to promote the use of electricity and hydrogen at the end-use level.
Excluding certain technologies Certain energy technology options can be excluded in the model for environmental, societal, and/or security reasons.
Implementation of biofuel targets Policies to enhance the use of biofuels, especially in the transport sector. In the Agricultural economy component only 'first generation' crops are taken into account. The policy is implemented as a budget-neutral policy from government perspective, e.g. a subsidy is implemented to achieve a certain share of biofuels in fuel production and an end-user tax is applied to counterfinance the implemented subsidy.
Improving energy efficiency Exogenously set improvement in efficiency. Such improvements can be introduced for the submodels that focus on particular technologies, for example, in transport, heavy industry and households submodels.
Production targets for energy technologies Production targets for energy technologies can be set to force technologies through a learning curve.
(*) Implementing component.