The feasibility of creating a digital representation of the UK’s energy system known as a digital twin has been demonstrated in a report launched today (Tuesday 9 August 2022) by Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) in collaboration with The Alan Turing Institute and CityScape, and sponsored by BEIS.

For the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, decision-makers need to be equipped with the right resources to ensure their decisions are effective.

The project has developed two proof of concept demonstrators, one focused on visual presentation and one on technical functionality. This shows how information could be provided in two different forms: a version for users with technical knowledge, and a visual demonstrator for non-technical decision makers.

The visual demonstrator has been created by The Alan Turing Institute, ESC and CityScape Digital to provide accessible visualisations of outputs from the BEIS national buildings model.

The two digital models resulting from this project begin to paint a picture of how digital twins could be used to support decision making within the energy sector.

The digital twin could eventually allow policymakers to see the impact of different policies in the energy sector, including both national-level decarbonisation indicators as well as a visualisation of changes at street-level. This could range from installing solar panels on roofs and heat pumps in homes to EV chargers and external wall insulation.

Watch a video walkthrough of the Visual Demonstrator

Professor John Moriarty, Strategic Lead for Energy in the Data-Centric Engineering Programme at The Alan Turing Institute and Professor of Mathematics in the School of Mathematical Sciences at QMUL, said: “Being able to predict and understand the effect of different policies is vital for policy makers to see the impact of their decisions – and will empower them to make more informed choices in the future.”

Professor Mark Girolami, Chief Scientist at The Alan Turing Institute, said: “This joint project output is an important step towards helping the UK government to understand what they need to do to decarbonise our energy systems by 2050. This work is an excellent example of the Turing collaborating with government departments, catapults and industry to deliver essential innovation on societal challenges affecting us all.”

Richard Halsey, Director for the Energy Systems Catapult, said: “Creating a modern digitalised energy system is critical to delivering on our Net Zero ambitions. Advances in technology and more open access to data creates the potential to better model the future and inform both policy and investment decision making. By working with The Alan Turing Institute, Cityscape and BEIS this project has demonstrated the real potential for digital energy twins to support the UK's energy transition."