In December 2011, DECC published the Carbon Plan and version 3 of the 2050 Pathways Calculator.
Future costs are uncertain, and there are a range of views of the future costs of key technologies such as building insulation, low-carbon vehicles, nuclear power, wind power, carbon capture and storage, heat pumps, and energy storage technologies, and key fuels such as oil, gas, and energy crops. These ranges are reflected in the calculator's cost sensitivity visualizer by allowing the user to change the costs from the default values to higher or lower values, consistent with the ranges that DECC has found in the expert literature. The user can also visualize the consequences of cost uncertainty by selecting the Uncertain choice for any of the costed items. The calculator then shows the range of possible costs for the user's chosen pathway.
All the cost ranges, and the original sources, are explicitly detailed in an open wiki, to which experts are encouraged to contribute updated data. You can click through to the relevant bit of the wiki from any row of the cost-sensitivity page of the calculator. The wiki contains superb interactive visualizations of the cost ranges from the literature. Here's the Offshore Wind Costs Data visualization, for example.
For me, one key message from this tool is the importance of innovation support to bring down the costs of all the technologies that may be important in the future.
Media coverage - The Carbon Plan and the 2050 Calculator have had a little bit of media coverage in the last month, including a nice mention in an editorial in Nature magazine.
Some of the coverage has been so inaccurate, however, that one is forced to conjecture that the authors of two recent pieces in the Telegraph made little effort to check their facts. For example, Christopher Booker perpetuates the twaddle of a blogger who invented the assertion that the 2050 calculator 'had been designed on the assumption that, with wind power, Britain would require much less energy, because we would have become more “energy efficient”, by insulating our homes and so forth'. This is complete twaddle, as anyone who takes the time to actually look at the open-source calculator can confirm. The user is perfectly free to combine any choice of energy-efficiency measures with any choice of energy-supply mix. Yes, the government's published pathways combine "green" energy sources (eg nuclear and wind) with energy-efficiency choices. But the calculator does not 'assume' or 'force' this choice. You can easily make high-fossil-fuel pathways with strong energy-efficiency action, if you want. It's all up to you, as the user. I think it's an awesome piece of "open-source policy development", and I'd like to congratulate the civil servants who did it, and thank all the hundreds of experts and volunteers who have helped them in their work. I really hope this open, factual tool can now be constructively used by politicians and opinion-formers to help public engagement with the issues of long-term energy security and climate-change action.