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Stage M2 : Assessing the credibility of energy transition scenarios up to 2050 inregard to energy, material and environmental combined constraints?


The world is at the dawn of a possible energy transition unprecedented in the history of humanity. The necessity to shift from fossils fuels—being in the meantime the source of today’s wealth and the cause of climate change—to low-carbon energies seems indisputable. However, the feasibility of existing transition scenarios can be questioned from numerous perspectives: the energetic one (soon declining oil supply, less efficient renewable energies, controllable capacity decreasing, etc.), the materials one (limited extractable resources of rare-earth elements, copper, steel, etc.) and the environmental one (consequent emissions emitted, water use, pollutions, land use degradation, etc.). These issues are only addressed—when not simply ignored—in the specialized sectorial literature rather than at systemic or even political level, as if they were not of momentous importance. This project attempts to fill this gap by developing its own energy transitions scenarios, building on a novel methodology designed thereafter.

Task 0–Understand some key aspects of the project

Prior to the start of the project, the student is expected to go through two relevant studies of the energy transition domain made available by the supervisor to help him/her better understand some key aspects: Vidal et al. (2018), Sol ́e et al. (2018).

Task 1–Retrieve energy consumption scenarios

The first task is to retrieve scenarios of final energy consumption (yearly data up to 2050) from various sources: Garc ́ıa (2009a,b), Grubler et al. (2018), Millward-Hopkins et al. (2020) and other relevant ones (IEA, IPCC, IRENA, Shell, WEC, etc.). The obtained data shall include an approximate energy use subdivision which shall be derived when not directly given.

Task 2–Develop a simple system dynamics model of energy transition at global scale

The second task consists in developing a simple system dynamics model of energy consumption and production at global scale, able to represent the yearly replacement of fossil fuels by low-carbon energies under energy, material and environmental constraints. To do so, the student will rely on Vidal (2018) existing model and extend/modify it to incorporate parameters allowing the use of scenarios in regard to the discussed constraints. Possible constraints on the possible rate of deployement of alternative energy sources, as compared to the expected rate of depletion of fossil energies, is a key element to assess and incorporate in this modelling effort.

Task 3–Calibration of the model (if time permits)

The model shall later be calibrated with Fizaine & Court (2015) and Calvo et al. (2017) for mineral resources, GlobalShift for oil (and possibly gas, coal should not be resources constrained), etc.

Task 4–Appreciation of an energy transition feasibility and search for optimal path (if time permits)

The last task is to assess whether the modeled energy production is able to match the assumed consumption scenarios, and if so, what will be the optimal energy transition scenario in terms of limitation of environmental impacts.


The student will be hosted at the STEEP laboratory of INRIA Grenoble (French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology), an interdisciplinary research team devoted to systemic modelling and to the simulation of the interactions between the environmental, economic and social factors within the context of transition.
The supervision will be assured by Louis Delannoy on a day-to-day basis, as well as Dr. Emmanuel Prados and Dr. Pierre-Yves Longaretti for monthly meetings. A potential collaboration with Prof. Olivier Vidal is being discussed.


Calvo, G., Valero, A. & Valero, A. (2017), ‘Assessing maximum production peak and resource availability of non-fuel mineral resources: Analyzing the influence of extractable global resources’, Resources, Conservation and Recycling 125, 208–217.
Fizaine, F. & Court, V. (2015), ‘Renewable electricity producing technologies and metal depletion: A sensitivity analysis using the EROI’, Ecological Economics 110, 106–118.
Garc ́ıa, D. (2009a), ‘A new world model including energy and climate change data’, The Oil Drum .
Garc ́ıa, D. (2009b), ‘New world model – eroei issues’, The Oil Drum .
Grubler, A., Wilson, C., Bento, N., Boza-Kiss, B., Krey, V., McCollum, D. L., Rao, N. D., Riahi, K., Rogelj, J.,
Stercke, S. D., Cullen, J., Frank, S., Fricko, O., Guo, F., Gidden, M., Havl ́ık, P., Huppmann, D., Kiesewetter,
G., Rafaj, P., Schoepp, W. & Valin, H. (2018), ‘A low energy demand scenario for meeting the 1.5°c target and sustainable development goals without negative emission technologies’, Nature Energy 3(6), 515–527.
Millward-Hopkins, J., Steinberger, J. K., Rao, N. D. & Oswald, Y. (2020), ‘Providing decent living with minimum energy: A global scenario’, Global Environmental Change 65, 102168.
Sol ́e, J., Garc ́ıa-Olivares, A., Turiel, A. & Ballabrera-Poy, J. (2018), ‘Renewable transitions and the net energy from oil liquids: A scenarios study’, Renewable Energy 116, 258–271.
Vidal, O. (2018), Mineral resources and energy : future stakes in energy transition, ISTE Press Ltd, London.
Vidal, O., Boulzec, H. L. & Fran ̧cois, C. (2018), ‘Modelling the material and energy costs of the transition to low-carbon energy’, EPJ Web of Conferences 189, 00018.