It was early September 2011 when I first planned to visit the International Institute for Advanced Systems Analysis (IIASA)(*1) in Austria in search of a suitable tool to assess the energy systems of a country like Japan. I was at that time working on an important assignment to develop alternative energy scenarios for Japan following the Great East Japan disaster and Fukushima nuclear accident. My assignment was to estimate the trade-off between having or not having nuclear energy in the national supply mix and the corresponding impacts on national greenhouse gas emissions. IIASA is an internationally recognised institute working in the field of complex energy systems analysis in the context of global climate mitigation, and it developed the MESSAGE (Model for Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impacts) model in the early 1990s as an advanced technical tool to deal with energy supply, demand, corresponding macroeconomic drivers and various environmental constraints.
During my first visit to IIASA, I was first introduced with the MESSAGE model's concept and overall capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. It appeared to be the best fit model for IGES to conduct energy policy studies in and outside of Japan. With an able guidance and explanation of the MESSAGE model by the Energy Group in IIASA led by Dr. Keywan Riahi, it was decided to jointly develop collaborative research between IIASA and IGES using the MESSAGE model. In the first half of the year 2012 IGES and IIASA jointly developed a full-fledged research proposal entitled: Asian Water Energy Nexus: An Assessment of Long Term Energy Scenarios. It was agreed that IIASA and IGES would share knowledge and use the model to conduct policy research in the energy sector for Asia and IIASA can develop a new version of the MESSAGE model capable of assessing the impact of water availability in the long run energy scenario development.
As a second step of this joint research implementation, I was invited by IIASA's Energy group to visit their institute for three months as visiting scholar during the summer of 2012 to learn and familiarise myself with the MESSAGE model. In addition to that, my mission purposes were also to become capable of operating the model, writing codes to add new module in the model and developing the water-energy nexus coefficients for the MESSAGE model. I began working at IIASA on 1 June. With tremendous support and encouragement by my IIASA colleagues, I started learning the basics of the MESSAGE model including its structure, codes and operation. After couple of weeks, I started understanding the functioning and logic of the model. By the end of first month, I could first run a test scenario with my own codes. During my second month in IIASA, I was able to develop the water coefficients for different energy supply technologies listed in the MESSAGE model and started collecting initial values for them for base line scenario testing. The existing MESSAGE model of IIASA has only 11 region globally with lots of aggregation of the countries, and so I began work on creating a new region in the entire model to give IGES flexibility for its use. Finally by the end of my stay in IIASA I had successfully completed my mission to learn the model, and had developed the codes for waterenergy nexus assessment as well as completing the initial stage of creating a new region in the model. Thanks to IIASA, I was given experience in conducting quantitative research in the energy sector and also had ample opportunity to benchmark the quality of my research against a truly international standard. I hope that IGES continues to send young, enthusiastic researchers to organisations like IIASA to bring benefits back to the institute in terms of quality of future research output.