News version of LEAP 2018
LEAP – a software tool for energy policy analysis and climate change mitigation assessment developed by SEI.

Policy-makers and researchers will be able to estimate health and climate impacts, track biomass supply, and model land use changes in a new version of SEI’s Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) system.

The 2018 version – released on Nov. 30 – is a significant upgrade to the widely-used energy analysis tool. It includes more than a dozen updates, from the new Integrated Benefits Calculator (IBC) to a simplified user interface.

LEAP is user-friendly and free to developing countries, making it the de facto standard for integrated resource planning and greenhouse gas mitigation assessment. It can be used at the city, state, national, regional or global scale.

With this week’s upgrade, LEAP has expanded to cover land use and forestry, as well as air pollution emission-related impacts.

Users can now account for land use in each region of their country, as well as consider alternative scenarios that include deforestation, agricultural expansion and increased land productivity. LEAP can even track the supplies of wood generated by land clearances, and examine each region’s demand for wood fuels.

These capabilities are crucial for African countries who are developing their Biomass Energy Strategies and were requested by LEAP users in Kenya and Rwanda. They needed to develop better insights into how demand-side measures – such as energy efficiency and fuel switching – can be coordinated with better forest management practices to avoid deforestation and forest degradation.

“The new version of LEAP lets users examine these issues holistically, by combining both demand and supply modelling,” said Charlie Heaps, SEI senior scientist and lead developer of LEAP.  “The new capabilities also form a foundation for future updates that will allow LEAP to be used for land-use change and forestry sector greenhouse gas mitigation assessment. “

Jacques Peeters, a forest management expert who advises the Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority, said the new version of LEAP will “definitely help in designing the options for a new biomass strategy.”

“The new features and tools integrated into LEAP have allowed us to provide different scenarios comparing supply and demand, providing a better overview of each scenario,” he said.

LEAP 2018 also comes with the Integrated Benefits Calculator, a feature SEI developed in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Daven Henze at the University of Colorado. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition provided support, alongside SEI’s own funding.

LEAP-IBC translates emission scenarios into impacts, such as avoided premature deaths, crop losses. For example, policy-makers can see how many lives would be saved through an emissions reduction policy – and view that impact by age, disease causing death and contributing pollutant.

It can also estimate how future emission reductions would reduce the global temperature rise, putting regional and national action into a global perspective.

“These calculations can be run in just a few seconds and do not require the help of experienced modellers,” Heaps said. “For the first time, planners in developing countries can access – and easily use – this computing-intensive modelling methodology to estimate the impacts of air pollution, one of the top environmental killers.”

The 2018 version of LEAP also comes with numerous other upgrades that use maps to improve results visualization, better support large LEAP models and make stakeholder interactions easier.