Energy conversion

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TIMER model, electricity module
Flowchart Energy conversion. See also the Input/Output Table on the introduction page.

Key policy issues

  • What is the potential role of energy conversion sector, particularly in power production, in achieving a more sustainable energy system?
  • What are the potential roles of individual technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear power, hydrogen and renewable energy?


Energy from primary sources often is first converted into secondary energy carriers that are more easily accessible for final consumption. Examples of such conversion processes relate to the production of electricity and hydrogen, oil products from crude oil in refineries, and the production of fuels from biomass. Electricity (and in the future possibly also hydrogen) is produced by the conversion of primary energy carriers, such as fossil fuels, fissile materials (uranium), and various renewable energy sources. Studies on transitions towards more sustainable energy systems tend to show the importance of these conversions for the future.

In two steps, the conversion models in the IMAGE Energy model simulate the choices made between input energy carriers. In the first step, at the level of newly added capital, investment decisions are made on the future generation mix. In the second step, the actual operationuse of the capacity in place depends on a set of model rules that determine how often the different types of power plants are used. and for what purpose (baseload/peakload). The discussion here concentrates on the production of electricity and hydrogen. Other conversion processes are relatively simple, as they mostly convert energy from a single primary source to one secondary energy carrier; these are therefore discussed in the primary energy (sub)model.

Input/Output Table

Input Energy conversion component

IMAGE model drivers and variablesDescriptionSource
Air pollution policy Air pollution policies set to reach emission reduction targets, represented in the model in the form of energy carrier and sector specific emission factors. Drivers
Energy policy Policy to achieve energy system objectives, such as energy security and energy access. Drivers
Technology development of energy conversion Learning curves and exogenous learning that determine technology development. Drivers
Carbon price Carbon price on the international trading market (in USD in 2005 per tonne C-eq) calculated from aggregated regional permit demand and supply curves derived from marginal abatement costs. Climate policy
Carbon storage price The costs of capturing and storing CO2, affecting the use of CCS technology. Energy supply
Demand for electricity, heat and hydrogen The demand for production of electricity, heat and hydrogen. Energy demand
Primary energy price The price of primary energy carriers based on production costs. Energy supply
External datasetsDescriptionSource
Initial technology cost The costs of energy conversion technologies at the start of the simulation.. Various sources
Rules on use of technology Rules determining how different types of power plants are used. Various sources

Output Energy conversion component

IMAGE model variablesDescriptionUse
Demand for primary energy Total demand for energy production. Sum of final energy demand and energy inputs into energy conversion processes.
Energy and industry activity level Activity levels in the energy and industrial sector, per process and energy carrier, for example, the combustion of petrol for transport or the production of crude oil.
Secondary energy price The secondary energy price of each energy carrier at the end-use level (coal, oil, gas, bio-energy, electricity, hydrogen) is calculated based on (1) the primary energy price, (2) energy taxes and subsidies, (3) the costs of energy conversion throughout the energy supply chain and (4) a correction factor.
Electricity price The price of electricity.
CO2 stored The amount of CO2 stored in underground reservoirs by applying CO2 capture technology.. Final output