Open modeling/environmental NGO bridge

I really like your push forward in this direction, thank you Robbie!

There was the Bits & Bäume Conference in Berlin last November 2018,
which was aiming to crossover sustainability and digitalisation.
I believe some openmodders where present; maybe there were more ideas exchanged which could be added?

I also think that is the approach to aim for. Not only would this increase transparency, but allowing for involvement (thinking in the direction of Citizen Science here) could

  1. increase the acceptance and understanding in the public of scenarios and results
  2. increase the relevance of research questions and scenarios from the point of view of also single ‘critical’ individuals

As Tom brought up the openmod’s 5th birthday and a extra special event in Autumn 2019 and in conjunction outreach of the openmod community to other continents: NGOs could be valuable if we want to increase our outreach/branching to especially African/South Asian/South American countries. There could be some strong synergies if we couple the NGO outreach with the special event and the nearly carbon-neutral (NCN) conference idea.



thanks Robbie for this really interesting thread.

I also agree that having an interaction with NGOs would be important for all the reasons you explained, and probably shaping the interaction in the form of satellite communities as the ones you described (i.e. ones that may help building an “extended peer community” [Ravetz, 1999] of people involved in the definition and enrichment of scenarios) could be the best option.

Even more than an opportunity, I think that a continuous and solid discussion with these NGOs is something that the openmod would need to timely and carefully manage, to ensure that the thing keeps going in the direction of increasing the quality of our analyses for the benefit of the whole community of people fighting for decarbonisation, and not the opposite. In fact, it’s worth underlining that (if not timely discussed) the thing might go also in another direction, as it may seem, for instance, for the experiment you mentioned of XR-DE (which, by the way, I am myself following with interest) of using IAMs for doing their own analyses: in short, I feel that, if every random NGOs starts running scenarios without taking care of building an extended peer community with the modellers themselves, there’s a good probability that at some point there will be a bunch of low-quality scenarios out in the web, which might be taken as a pretext to discredit the quality of open models altogether.

So, I do think that it’s really a great thing if NGOs (especially new ones, as XR) start getting interested and involved in open-source modelling, and I do think this could benefit a lot to both of us, yet only if the relationship between the modellers and the NGOs is timely and properly established on the basis of continuous discussion and reciprocal involvement, just as you suggest. So, let’s keep this discussion going.



Ravetz, I.R., 1999.What is post-normal science. Futures-the Journal of Forecasting Planning and Policy, 31(7), pp.647-654.

One comment and a short update. I am sticking with my policy of not naming names (beyond Extinction Rebellion) for now.

Regarding poorly thought through scenarios. Running the scenarios adds a certain rigor to the process. For instance, local and regional energy autarky has quite a following in green circles in Germany and doubtless elsewhere. As most here will know, renewable energy has to be shifted in time (storage) or space (transmission) to cover some given demand trajectory for energy services (exhibiting various degrees of flexibility and importance). So those favoring flat or reduced transmission capacity will, speculatively, find such systems exhibit low aggregate efficiency (round trip storage being more lossy than transmission) and/or high curtailment (harvesting technologies being cheaper than storage technologies), both with significant implications for affordability and ecological cost. It matters not whether my example is correct — the point is that the process of modeling embeds its own exigencies. And if some mavericks manage to locate unorthodox high performing solutions, well that’s great! Weise et al (2014) expands on this view of open modeling as a necessary condition for public participation.

The NGO reactions thus far have been interesting. I would say most have little to no idea as to:

  • the potential of open development and how the associated communities might function (beyond Wikipedia)

  • the potential contribution of (open or closed) energy modeling to decarbonized futures (beyond Microsoft Excel)

One established NGO commented that they like their reports to create a “splash”, meaning they can promote their conclusions on mainstream and social media and gain publicity. I’m not sure if open development excludes that activity, but it is something to bear in mind. And this activity is certainly not limited to NGOs — scientific bodies also have media teams who would probably strongly resist a move to “continuous integration”. I think I’ll file this issue under “institutional ego”: something that does not sit well with FOSS development.

One NGO asked about including land use in our assessments. One approach is the nexus concept, which some projects are now working toward (Brouwer et al 2018).

@tom_brown pointed out offline that analysis using SWITCH was used to simultaneously support and advocate for a law on 100% renewable generation by 2045 for Hawaii. Fripp (2016) provides background.

The openmod “associated” (the openmod cannot apply in its own right) COST application (discussed here) will probably include a component for NGO outreach. So we need to think about how that might be best operationalized.

Finally, those who like to loiter on twitter can follow #freethemodels By all accounts, similar sentiments to those here but quite a different audience.


Brouwer, Floor, Georgios Avgerinopoulos, Dora Fazekas, Chrysi Laspidou, Jean-Francois Mercure, Hector Pollitt, Eunice Pereira Ramos, and Mark Howells (1 January 2018). “Energy modelling and the Nexus concept”. Energy Strategy Reviews. 19: 1–6. ISSN 2211-467X. doi:10.1016/j.esr.2017.10.005. Creative Commons CC-BY-4.0 license.

COST. What are COST actions?. European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). Webpage.

Fripp, Matthias (29 June 2016). Consensus-based power system planning using open assumptions and models — Presentation. Manoa, Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii.

Wiese, Frauke, Gesine Bökenkamp, Clemens Wingenbach, and Olav Hohmeyer (1 September 2014). “An open source energy system simulation model as an instrument for public participation in the development of strategies for a sustainable future”. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment. 3 (5): 490–504. ISSN 2041-840X. doi:10.1002/wene.109. Paywalled.

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Another update following several more conversations. A well‑known NGO is apparently considering a strategic shift away from analysis and toward action. My response is that the satellite community concept (outlined earlier) can and should span both aspects.

Inconvenienced car drivers at an anti‑coal protest in Berlin on 1 February 2019 questioned protesters blocking their way as to whether 100% renewable generation was indeed possible. A good question. Some incumbent NGOs blithely say yes — but with no real understanding of the system architectural, market design, public acceptance, and related challenges and trade‑offs that lie ahead.

Numerical studies from the open energy modeling community (and others) indicate too that the answer is yes (for instance, Brown et al 2018). But more importantly, these studies can articulate and shed light on a number of key questions that the interested public will need to address regarding which 100% renewable future they would prefer or at least be willing to accept.

Experience in Hawaii with the SWITCH open electricity system model and a fork developed by E3 shows that NGO involvement and advocacy can work in tandem with sophisticated modeling and analysis. These two tweets from communications lead Kamal Kapadia indicate the role played by the Blue Planet Foundation:

Just some context and a plug for my organization, #BluePlanetFound: Hawaii was first state in the US to pass a law requiring 100% RE by 2045. The critical factor was advocacy and collaboration between non‑profits, who used research and models strategically.

#BluePlanetFound literally pounded halls of State Capitol every year for 10 yrs to get this law passed. Early on the Governor called our Exec Director “Harry Potter” for pushing for 100%. But now it’s the law. So research/models PLUS advocacy is key.

Therefore, European NGOs should not deprioritize analysis to capitalize on rapidly ramping public concern about our climate emergency. They should also recognize the need for the interested public to work on solutions too (Wallace-Wells 2019). It would indeed be retrograde to see NGOs and their umbrella organizations swap to sloganeering and mobilization without also contributing to a longer view. Emphasizing urgency is useful, but we also need a common and open journey toward deep and necessarily highly intertwined solutions.

On a more practical note, one German NGO and one Berlin university research group have tentatively offered to host a meeting in Berlin. More soon.


Blue Planet Foundation (ongoing). Blue Planet Foundation. Blue Planet Foundation. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. Website.

Brown, Tom W, T Bischof-Niemz, K Blok, C Breyer, Henrik Lund, and Brian Vad Mathiesen (1 September 2018). “Response to ‘Burden of proof: a comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’”. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 92: 834–847. ISSN 1364-0321. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2018.04.113. Creative Commons CC-BY-4.0 license.

Fripp, Matthias (27 December 2018). “Intercomparison between Switch 2.0 and GE MAPS models for simulation of high-renewable power systems in Hawaii”. Energy, Sustainability and Society. 8 (1): 41. ISSN 2192-0567. doi:10.1186/s13705-018-0184-x.

Johnston, Josiah, Rodrigo Henríquez, Benjamín Maluenda, and Matthias Fripp (17 October 2018). “Switch 2.0: a modern platform for planning high-renewable power systems”. Preprint arXiv:1804.05481v3.

Wallace-Wells, David (2 February 2019). “‘The devastation of human life is in view’: what a burning world tells us about climate change”. The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0261-3077. Author’s upcoming book is ISBN 978-024135521-3.

The following diagram shows the kind of relationships that might develop between a satellite community, the open energy modeling community, an energy and climate NGO, and the interested public. My thanks to Michael R for prompting the original sketch.

More information on the OpenEnergy Platform, the OPSD database, the PowerExplorer portal from WRI, and a list of open energy system models.


Details of the actual bridge meeting are currently being worked through and I’ll post back after the details firm up a bit more.


This looks very interesting - thank you for posting :-)! One question that we should probably check at some point would be how the activities of the Satellite Group would be funded? In case of a successful COST grant to support OpenMod activities , we could probably fund networking expenses, but would still depend on modelers / NGOs etc willingness to dedicate their time…(pro-bono, or as part of other projects etc.) so it might be good to collect expressions of interest for that at some point (which may be after the meeting, once we fleshed out more details regarding the activities of the “satellite group”).

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Funding. Always a good topic! I guess I saw this activity being funded the same way the Linux kernel is. Essentially contributors gain benefits they could not achieve working alone or through other avenues. For Linux, first came Linus, then some hobbyists, and later the corporates. Kernel contributors now number 16 000 including skilled developers. No money is transacted, at least not directly. Or is Linux a bad analogy? Am I being too cavalier?

From another angle, I see quite a number of maturing openmod‑related workflows converging here. Technical data standards and information semantics. The models themselves, either intact or split into components for reuse (or scavenge if you prefer). Data portals being stocked and curated. Model classification, model comparisons, and model quality reviews just beginning but should prove invaluable. Many of the building blocks are present already. What we lack — with the model‑specific exceptions of Balmorel and OSeMOSYS — are user communities.

An IT‑savvy community liaison manager could help get things rolling. Set up some online communications infrastructure, preferably self‑hosted. Arrange video and physical kick‑off meetings. Engage in outreach. (Would anyone like to explore funding for this kind of support?)

The biggest challenge is not financial or even infrastructural — it’s helping the energy and climate NGOs understand this unfamiliar world and the potential benefits on offer. Most everything about open source is strange to them. It is geeky — and not many NGO staff are analytical let alone numerical. The self‑organized chaos. The legal issues and the centrality of open licensing. How best to interface. Will their brands somehow be at risk. And ultimately, a level of disbelief that self‑selected online communities can manage and advance complex projects that they themselves struggle to tame. On that note, the Linux kernel is currently costed at around USD $10 billion.

There is also a need to demonstrate to the NGOs what open energy models can do. That will be a key part of this bridging exercise. But the openmod community also needs to listen to the NGOs to better understand their objectives, challenges, agendas, and constraints.

I want to finish with the comment that not everything can be open. Protected industrial know‑how and information which can identify living persons are both off limits. But in between those two bookends, there is a lot of space to work within.


Plenary session at Aarhus workshop

@felix.reitz, energy analyst, Europe Beyond Coal, and myself @robbie.morrison have a 30‑minute plenary session on this topic at the next Open Energy Modelling Initiative workshop in Aarhus, Denmark, scheduled for 10:00–10:30 on Friday 24 May 2019. We plan to record the session and make the video available under a Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license.


I am in two minds as to how much separation there should be between satellite communities and individual NGOs. Both close and distant could work. A close community should see a tighter binding between the analysis and the campaign objectives of the aligned NGO. And more direct support. While a looser arrangement would give the satellite communities more autonomy. Moreover, umbrella organizations, such as Europe Beyond Coal or Climate‑Alliance Germany, could act as intermediaries, interfacing between the community analysis and the research needs of their partnering NGOs.

One‑page elevator pitch

This elevator pitch proposes a bridge between the open energy modeling community and energy and climate NGOs within Europe. To date, there has been little or no contact between these two camps.


Energy models are used to explore future energy systems, usually to 2050, by analyzing scenarios.

The Open Energy Modelling Initiative (openmod) is a grassroots network of energy system modelers pursuing open analysis: open source models, open (as opposed to simply public) data, open access publications, and open science. We number about 500 and are now sufficiently advanced and organized to support serious public policy analysis. See wikipedia, our forum, and our mailing list.

While many environmental NGOs argue for public process and transparency, their policy formation is often opaque and non‑reproducible, due to closed source models, withheld data, and copyrighted reports. Not only is this ethically inconsistent, it also means that substantial resources remain untapped and that a proven (open source) development model lies dormant and wasted (Morrison 2018).

The European Commission is shifting to open energy policy development and open science. The incumbent NGOs risk falling behind accepted scientific standards if they don’t follow suit.

Proposed Berlin meeting in mid-2019

A one‑day physical meeting is being planned for mid‑2019 in Berlin, Germany. It will most likely be hosted by the CoalExit group at TU Berlin and organized by CoalExit (Pao‑Yu Oei), Germanwatch (Eva Schmid), and myself (no institutional affiliation). The meeting will provide an opportunity for:

  • open energy system modelers to showcase their capabilities
  • NGOs to share their experiences of working with energy models and data
  • a discussion on how best to work together going forward

Satellite community option

The following diagram indicates one possible game plan. A satellite community would be independent and would draw strongly on open source development methods and tools. Careful separation would limit the reputational risk for any associated NGOs.

release 05 of the satellite diagram

Open energy system modelers expect substantial benefits with a move to open analysis. Model‑mediated public consultation is arguably unavoidable, given the system and policy complexities involved. And NGOs could transition to a supporter engagement model fit for the early 21st century. ▢

PDF version

Hard‑copy version of this posting for download. Please copy and distribute the PDF as you see fit.

Stale versions: retained online to avoid linkrot

ngo-bridge-mid2019-pitch.05.pdf (620.3 KB) / superseded, see elsewhere for latest version
ngo-bridge-mid2019-pitch.07.pdf (658.8 KB) / superseded, see elsewhere for latest version

Hi Robbie, thanks for pushing this topic and connecting the people. I can offer to present the OEP and our community based open science concepts.

Bridge meeting • Monday 17 June 2019 • Berlin, Germany

Caution: this posting is dynamic, you can view its history via the orange or gray pencil icon just above.

Update: the meeting took place as indicated with 16 participants — some of the presentations will be online in due course.

The bridge concept seeks to improve the transparency and quality of analysis used by energy and climate NGOs, the legitimacy of future energy system scenarios used by energy system modelers, and the contribution from civil society to preparing for a rapid and just transition to zero‑carbon energy systems.

Details of the first one‑day “bridge” meeting in Berlin are as follows:

  • Date: Monday 17 June 2019
  • Duration: 11:00 to 17:00 followed by an optional restaurant meal nearby
  • Venue: Technical University of Berlin, Hauptgebäude (main building), Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin (Charlottenburg), Germany
  • Room number : H 3143 (H for Hauptgebäude, 3 for third floor, turn left after exiting lift)
  • Host department: CoalExit group, Workgroup for Infrastructure Policy
  • Location: OpenStreetMap
  • Transport hubs: Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Tegel airport (TXL)
  • Travel tips: TU Berlin
  • Cost: no cost but meals not included
  • Language: english preferred
  • Attendance : limited to 25 persons
  • Selection: NGO representatives will have priority and diversity considerations will apply in the event that participation needs limiting
  • WiFi: probably limited to eduroam subscribers

Energy and climate NGOs are encouraged to contact the organizers and register interest. In particular, NGO campaign staff and supporter engagement staff should volunteer themselves to give presentations. It is important that this bridge has foundations at both ends!


Registrations are now open and are recorded on the German Pirate Party CryptPad service at this URL using markdown table markup. A typical entry is shown below — with the email and affiliation fields optional. If you do elect to omit your email address on the CryptPad, can you please either message me @robbie.morrison or email me with that information.

| Erika Mustermann | | My Institution |


The next openmod workshop at Aarhus, Denmark has a 30‑minute plenary session scheduled on the bridge concept. The session will be videoed and later made available online.

A number of official agencies are interested in this type of open analysis and public engagement and some are considering sending representatives.

Sources of funding for a community liaison manager and sysop support are being explored.


The first part of the program consists of open energy system modelers describing their research and work practices:

Presenter Affiliation Theme
Pao‑Yu Oei TU Berlin Welcome
Eva Schmid Germanwatch Introduction
Robbie Morrison Open analysis using online communities
Tom Brown KIT What are open energy models and what can they contribute?
Jens Weibezahn TU Berlin OPSD open power system data project and community curation
Ludwig Hülk RLI Open energy data in the Energiewende

The second part of the program will be energy and climate NGOs sharing their experiences and expectations regarding energy analysis and position formation. That part of the program is currently under development, in part awaiting interest from the NGOs themselves.

Presenter NGO Theme
Eva Schmid Germanwatch NGO perspective
Felix Reitz Europe Beyond Coal Analytical challenges

The third part will be a discussion among participants on opportunities going forward.

Presenter Affiliation Theme
Christian Winzer ZHAW COST grant application (by video)

The openmod COST grant application is work‑in‑progress to obtain seek funding to improve the reach and diversity of the openmod community. More information can be obtained by filtering openmod forum topics using the cost‑grant tag. The video link is scheduled for 16:00.

Optionally, participants can decamp to the Café Hardenberg around 18:00 to continue discussions, 8 minutes away by foot.


Open analysis using online communities : Robbie Morrison : Three decades of open source software development have pioneered a social model, a legal context, and a number of tools for effective online collaboration. This presentation reviews that journey and how it might apply to the open analysis of future energy systems. Two community architectures will be presented for consideration: satellite communities somewhat aligned to individual NGOs and a single community that undertakes common‑pool analysis on behalf of all.

What are open energy models and what can they contribute? : Tom Brown : I will give a quick overview of what “open energy modelling” is and why openness in energy modelling is important. I will review the current state of the modelling community, where it is headed, and what it can offer to help NGOs and the wider public understand the solutions to our energy challenges.

Open energy data in the Energiewende : Ludwig Hülk : What are the main challenges and current tools for open data in energy research? I will present the Open Energy Platform (OEP),   community‑driven database, used to publish and reuse data sets. In addition, I will show the concept of Stakeholder Empowerment (StEmp) tools to foster Open Science and Citizen Science. These are interactive web interfaces that can be used to directly connect science and allied organizations, including NGOs.

Restaurant meal

We can go to the following restaurant to get together after the event proper has finished:

  • Café Hardenberg
  • Hardenbergstraße 10, 10623 Berlin (Charlottenburg), Germany
  • OpenStreetMap
  • booked for 18:00 start
  • vegetarian and vegan options, main dishes start at €7
  • open until midnight


The one‑page elevator pitch has been updated. Please download this version and circulate it as you see fit.

Release: 08
Date: 18 April 2019

ngo-bridge-mid2019-pitch.08.pdf (676.6 KB)


This thread (officially a topic) is not just for information but also for discussion. Please continue to engage below. You will need to register for the site and your first post only will be subject to moderator approval. You can also set the notification status near the bottom of this page to “watching” if you want to receive email advice when others contribute.


On behalf of the organizers, Eva Schmid (Germanwatch), Pao‑Yu Oei (CoalExit group), Felix Reitz (Europe Beyond Coal), and myself, Robbie Morrison (no institutional affiliation).

Traffic on twitter:

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New forms of analysis and engagement for NGOs

Greenpeace UK recently launched a plan explaining how the United Kingdom government should respond, in their view, to the unfolding climate emergency (report cited below).

Greenpeace UK also provided a public forum for feedback and I duly posted. My input was silently rejected by Greenpeace moderators. Here are some edited extracts from that posting salient to this discussion on NGO engagement:

Since late‑November 2018, I have been chasing NGO energy and climate campaigners to try and get their NGOs to do their analysis in public, using open methods, with domain experts, with their supporters (some of whom will be very smart), and with the interested public more generally.

In this regard, the list of measures outlined in Greenpeace (2019), while doubtless a sensible start, if not assessed in an integrated fashion and without deep public involvement, will become just another laundry list of policy calls, lacking scientific rigor and negotiated legitimacy. Instead, we, everybody, needs to start talking about complete scenarios, integrated assessment, feasible transition pathways, and the criteria and processes that can be used to determine which route to head out on and why. Because many key decisions taken shortly will significantly lock‑in and lock‑out future opportunities. The interested public have to participate in this journey from its very inception and be handed a clean sheet of paper at the outset.

Indeed we have to stop treating these deep problems as a series of wedges that can be stacked together and begin to understand that integration and path dependency are central issues — ones that can only be understood and addressed using model‑mediated multi‑sector analysis.

The environmental NGOs should start to emphase process over positions — in the face of complexity and in the expectation that social attitudes will shift tectonically.

I can assure readers that my original posting would have been acceptable on any open project mailing list, chat room, or forum. Indeed, it would have been seen as a welcome contribution to an important community discussion that necessarily takes place in public.


Greenpeace UK (May 2019). How government should address the climate emergency. London, United Kingdom: Greenpeace UK.

Greenpeace UK (May 2019). Greenpeace’s climate emergency plan. Greenpeace UK. Webpage.

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Hi Robbie,
I’ll be in Berlin the week of June 17 and would be interested in the meeting scheduled on OpenMod at TU on June 17, 2019. Where can I find sign-up info, location etc.?
Thank you for any help you might be able to provide.
Gordian Raacke
Renewable Energy Long Island, New York, USA


  • meeting details at post 12 above — this post is dynamic and will be updated as required
  • the exact room not confirmed but will be in the TU Berlin Hauptgebäude (main building) located here
  • registration by google doc spreadsheet sometime this weekend (but I have noted your interest)
  • message or email me for more background


  • registration for the 17 June 2019 bridge meeting now open
  • see post 12 above for details and URL
  • the registration itself uses text‑edited markdown

Digitalization policy and climate change — developments in Germany

German environment minister Svenja Schulze (2019) presented at the re:publica’19 conference series on 6 May 2019.

Wettengel (2019) reports her paper names the FridaysForFuture student climate protests as the most recent example of how participation and access to political decisions change through digital interconnectivity.


Schulze, Svenja (6 May 2019). Umwelt in die Algorithmen!: Eckpunkte für eine umweltpolitische Digitalagenda des BMU [Environment in the algorithms: key points for an environmental policy digital agenda of the BMU] (in German). Berlin, Germany: Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit (BMU). Presented at re:publica’19.

Wettengel, Julian (8 May 2019). Digitalisation vital for climate protection – German environment minister. Clean Energy Wire. Berlin, Germany.

Just saw that during the following EMP-E Conference 2019: 'Modelling the implementation of A Clean Planet For All Strategy in Brussels [ October 8th - 9th, 2019], there will be a session on ‘Energy system models: transparency, community-based and citizen participation’ (Day 2). If not already the case, might be interesting to catch up!


My poster abstract for the EMP‑E 2019 conference was accepted. Quoted below is a slightly modified version. This discussion can therefore continue in Brussels in October.

Online communities for open energy analysis: improving trust, legitimacy, and participation

Open energy system models and open energy sector data portals, taken together, have reached the point where potentially anyone can undertake energy system analysis without the need to develop specialist tools and stock primary databases from scratch. This is clearly a milestone. A next step would be to build online communities to pursue this analysis in the open and for the public interest using methods developed by open source software projects. This poster presents one possible community architecture as a move toward engendering a debate on improved civil society engagement.

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Hey. Johannes from WRI here.

Happy to engage in these conversations. We already had good work together with KTH and have submitted proposals together with universities. I think there are many ways we could benefit from each others work.


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