ANSWER is user friendly software with a gentle learning curve for working with energy system models. ANSWER-MARKAL, became available in 1998, has been extensively enhanced over the past 15 years, and is used by nearly all of the world's MARKAL modellers. The ANSWER-TIMES software for working with ETSAP's newer TIMES model became available in 2008, has been extensively enhanced since then, and continues to undergo enhancement. The software itself has considerable in-built knowledge of the particular energy system model (TIMES or MARKAL) being used, to maximize assistance to the user.
ANSWER – Latest News as at January 2017
Dr Ken Noble, the Director of Noble-Soft Systems and the owner of the ANSWER software, will retire at the end of 2017.
Implications for ANSWER-TIMES
Existing users: All existing ANSWER-TIMES users who are up-to-date with their maintenance will continue to receive support and any updates to the system.
Potential new users: Any new user wishing to work with TIMES is encouraged to consider going with the VEDA software, rather than purchasing ANSWER-TIMES. Nonetheless ANSWER-TIMES will remain available for purchase by new users in 2017.
Ongoing maintenance and support: ANSWER-TIMES will continue to be upgraded as new features are added to the ETSAP GAMS TIMES code. However, starting in 2018 no further changes will be made to ANSWER-TIMES, and only emergency support in the form of providing new ANSWER licenses files when existing users obtain a new computer or to deal with a hard disk replacement will be handled.
Potential new users and existing users should refer to the Noble-Soft website for additional details and caveats regarding the use of the ANSWER-TIMES software in 2017 and beyond.
Implications for ANSWER-MARKAL
Potential new users: The “Acquiring ETSAP Tools” section of the ETSAP website already advises that ETSAP strongly recommends using TIMES over MARKAL. Nonetheless ANSWER-MARKAL will remain available for purchase by new users in 2017, in order to be available to any new user who wishes to collaborate closely with an existing ANSWER-MARKAL user.
Note that the ANSWER-MARKAL software – like the ETSAP GAMS MARKAL code – will remain unchanged ("frozen") in 2017.
Potential new users and existing users should refer to the Noble-Soft website for additional details and caveats regarding the use of the ANSWER-MARKAL software in 2017 and beyond.
ANSWER is user friendly software with a gentle learning curve for working with energy system models. ANSWER-MARKAL, the first Windows-based software for working with ETSAP's MARKAL model, became available in 1998, has been extensively enhanced over the past 15 years, and is used by nearly all of the world's MARKAL modellers. The ANSWER-TIMES software for working with ETSAP's newer TIMES model became available in 2008, has been extensively enhanced since then, and continues to undergo enhancement.
The same underlying philosophy of operation applies to both ANSWER-TIMES and ANSWER-MARKAL, so that existing ANSWER-MARKAL users who move across to ANSWER-TIMES can focus on the differences between TIMES and MARKAL. In each case:
- The ANSWER interface EXE provides facilities for data entry/edit/browse, for model run initiation and for results handling.
- Model data is stored in a Microsoft Access database, with "smart" Excel spreadsheets provided to expedite the preparation and bulk-loading of model data into the ANSWER Access database.
- Results from a model run can be brought back into the ANSWER database and browsed online.
Overview of the ANSWER-TIMES (ANSWER-MARKAL) system for TIMES (MARKAL) modelling
Data and assumptions are entered into the ANSWER database manually using the ANSWER-TIMES EXE, or by bulk-loading model data from "smart" Excel spreadsheets.
Model run initiation from ANSWER causes the creation of text files (in GAMS format) specifying the model instance to be solved by the TIMES (MARKAL) GAMS code.
The TIMES (MARKAL) GAMS run produces as output text files containing model results: two sets of results text files can be produced, one for import into ANSWER and the other for import into VEDA-BE. This provides maximum results handling flexibility to the user.
A particular ambition for ANSWER is that it provide user-friendly software with a gentle learning curve and where the software itself has considerable in-built knowledge of the particular energy system model (TIMES or MARKAL) being used, to maximize assistance to the user. While this ambition has been substantially achieved for MARKAL by the ANSWER-MARKAL software, the ANSWER-TIMES software is still undergoing enhancement to improve its in-built knowledge of the TIMES model, and of course to incorporate new TIMES features.
The standard version of the ANSWER software has not been explicitly engineered to handle extremely large multi-region models, but is nonetheless being used by some clients to work with quite large-scale multi-region models (10 or more regions with 1,500 or more technologies per region). ANSWER's user-friendliness and gentle learning curve make it an excellent choice for working with models ranging from single-region to quite large-scale multi-region models.
ANSWER is marketed by Noble-Soft Systems, an Australian company. Its Director, Dr Ken Noble, has a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Adelaide. He first worked with MARKAL (the OMNI version) during 1992 and has had an active involvement with the ETSAP community, MARKAL and TIMES since 1993. Ken developed ANSWER-MARKAL, the first Windows-based interface for MARKAL, while working for former Australian ETSAP Partner ABARE. In 2003 Ken established Noble-Soft Systems and became the owner of the ANSWER software, thereby ensuring its continuing development and support.