Calibrate and tune MESSAGE-MACRO

Demand elasticities are modelled in MESSAGE via an iterative link to MACRO [9]. The iterative solution process between MESSAGE and MACRO, referred to as “MESSAGE-MACRO”, sends information on “energy prices” and “total system costs” from MESSAGE to MACRO, and “demand” and “GDP” from MACRO to MESSAGE, until the demand responses are such that the two models have reached equilibrium ([4], further details can be found here). This linkage between the two models is activated by calling solve() with the argument model=’MESSAGE-MACRO’, or using the GAMS MESSAGE-MACRO_run.gms script directly (see Running a model for details about these two methods).

To solve a scenario in a MESSAGE-MACRO mode, that scenario should be MACRO-calibrated first. As described in [4], the calibration process “is parameterized off of a baseline scenario (which assumes some autonomous rate of energy efficiency improvement, AEEI) and is conducted for all MESSAGE regions simultaneously. Therefore, the demand responses motivated by MACRO are meant to represent the additional (compared to the baseline) energy efficiency improvements and conservation that would occur in each region as a result of higher prices for energy services.”

In the calibration process, the user defines a reference energy price (price_ref) and reference total cost (cost_ref) for the energy system that corresponds to a reference value for demand (demand_ref) for a base year. Then, using these exogenous reference values plus energy prices (PRICE_COMMODITY) and total system cost (COST_NODAL_NET) from the solution of MESSAGE for a given demand time series (demand), the calibration process changes two parameters, namely, the autonomous rate of energy efficiency improvement (aeei) and growth in GDP (grow), so that the output of MACRO (GDP and DEMAND) would converge to an initially specified timeseries trajectory of GDP (gdp_calibrate) and demand (demand), respectively. The scenario used for calibration is usually a baseline scenario, meaning that this scenario will not include any long-term climate policy targets. Without the calibration, the output of MACRO (GDP and DEMAND) can be different from the initial exogenous assumptions for GDP and demand (gdp_calibrate and demand) in MESSAGE for a given scenario.

The calibration process is invoked using the add_macro() on a (baseline) scenario. The calibration will be run for the entire optimization-time horizon, i.e., for all model periods after and including, the firstmodelyear. The calibration process requires some input data, including reference prices, demand, and total system cost of the last historic period in the model, i.e., the model period prior to the firstmodelyear, referred to as the “reference year” in the calibration process. This “reference year” represents the model period for which commodity prices and energy system cost are known for a given demand of those commodities. This is detailed in the next section.

The calibration itself is carried out by the message_ix/model/MACRO/macro_calibration.gms. In this iterative process, max_it is used to specify the number of iterations carried out between MESSAGE and MACRO as part of the calibration process. The default value is set to 100 iterations, which has proven to be sufficient for the calibration of MACRO to MESSAGE reference scenario for various models. Adjustment of GDP growth rates (grow) is carried out during even iterations. Adjustment of AEEI improvement rates (aeei) is carried out during odd iterations.


Note, that no actual check is carried out to see if the calibration process has been successful at the end of iterations.

The information from the calibration process is logged in message_ix/model/MACRO_run.lst. Successful calibration of MESSAGE to MACRO can be identified by looking at the reported values for the “PARAMETER growth_correction” for the last “even” iteration, which should be somewhere around 1e-14 to 1e-16 for positive adjustments or -1e-14 to -1e-16 for negative adjustments. Likewise, the “PARAMETER aeei_correction” can be checked for the last “odd” iteration. Once the calibration process has been completed, the scenario will be populated with additional parameters. As part of the calibration process, a final check will automatically be carried out by solving the freshly calibrated scenario in the MESSAGE-MACRO coupled mode, ensuring that the convergence criteria between solution of MESSAGE and MACRO is met after the first iteration.

Input data file

The calibration process requires an input data file (Microsoft Excel format), largely built around Scenario/model data. For an example of such input data files, see the files message_ix/tests/data/*_macro_input.xlsx included as part of the message_ix test suite; either in your local installation, or here on GitHub. The input data file includes the following sheets:

General configuration sheet

  • config: This configuration sheet specifies MACRO-related nodes and years, and maps MACRO sectors to MESSAGE commodities and levels. The sheet has five columns, each of which is a list of labels/codes for a corresponding ixmp set:

    • “node”, “year”: these can each have any length, depending on the number of regions and years to be included in the MACRO calibration process.

    • “sector”, “commodity”, “level”: these 3 columns must have equal lengths. They describe a one-to-one mapping between MACRO sectors (entries in the “sector” column) and MESSAGE commodities and levels (paired entries in the “commodity” and “level” columns).

MACRO parameter sheets

The remaining sheets each contain data for one MACRO parameter:

  • price_ref: prices of MESSAGE commodities in a reference year. These can be obtained from the variable PRICE_COMMODITY.

  • cost_ref: total cost of the energy system in the reference year. These can be obtained from the variable COST_NODAL_NET and should be divided by a factor of 1000.

  • demand_ref: demand for different commodities in the reference year.

  • lotol: tolerance factor for lower bounds on MACRO variabales.

  • esub: elasticity between capital-labor and energy.

  • drate: social discount rate.

  • depr: annual percent depreciation.

  • kpvs: capital value share parameter.

  • kgdp: initial capital to GDP ratio in base year.

  • gdp_calibrate: trajectory of GDP in optimization years calibrated to energy demand to MESSAGE. Values for atleast two periods prior to the firstmodelyear are required in order to compute the growth rates in historical years.

  • aeei: annual potential decrease of energy intensity in sector sector.

  • MERtoPPP: conversion factor of GDP from market exchange rates to purchasing power parity.

Numerical issues

This section describes how to solve two numerical issues that can occur in large MESSAGEix models.

The documentation for the MESSAGE_MACRO class describes the algorithm and its three parameters:

  • convergence_criterion,

  • max_adjustment, and

  • max_iteration.

The algorithm detects ‘oscillation’, which occurs when MESSAGE and MACRO each return slightly different solutions, but these two solutions are each stable.

If the difference between these points is greater than convergence_criterion, the algorithm might jump between these two points infinitely. Instead, the algorithm detects oscillation by comparing model solutions on each iteration to previous values recorded in the iteration log. Specifically, the algorithm checks for three patterns across the iterations.

  1. Does the sign of the max_adjustment parameter change?

  2. Are the maximum-positive and maximum-negative adjustments equal to each other?

  3. Do the solutions jump between two objective functions?

If the algorithm picks up on the oscillation between iterations, then after MACRO has solved and before solving MESSAGE, a log message is printed as follows:

--- Restarting execution
--- MESSAGE-MACRO_run.gms(4986) 625 Mb
--- Reading solution for model MESSAGE_MACRO
--- MESSAGE-MACRO_run.gms(4691) 630 Mb
    +++ Indication of oscillation, increase the scaling parameter (4) +++
--- GDX File c:\repo\message_ix\message_ix\model\output\MsgIterationReport_ENGAGE_SSP2_v4_EN_NPi2020_900.gdx
    Time since GAMS start: 1 hour, 10 minutes
    +++ Starting iteration 14 of MESSAGEix-MACRO... +++
    +++ Solve the perfect-foresight version of MESSAGEix +++
--- Generating LP model MESSAGE_LP


This example is from a particular model run, and the actual message may differ.

Which of the three checks listed above has been invoked is logged in the iteration report in MsgIterationReport_<model_name>_<scenario_name>.gdx under the header “oscillation check”.

The algorithm then gradually reduces max_adjustment from the user-supplied value. This has the effect of reducing the allowable relative change in demands, until the convergence_criterion is met.

If none of the checks have been invoked over the iterations, then MESSAGEix and MACRO converged naturally. A log message as follows is printed:

--- Reading solution for model MESSAGE_MACRO
--- Executing after solve: elapsed 7:42:24.622
--- MESSAGE-MACRO_run.gms(5176) 1116 Mb
    +++ Convergence criteria satisfied after 14 iterations +++
    +++ Natural convergence achieved +++

If in any of the iterations, any of the three oscillation checks were invoked, a log message is printed as follows:

--- Reading solution for model MESSAGE_MACRO
--- Executing after solve: elapsed 7:42:24.622
--- MESSAGE-MACRO_run.gms(5176) 1116 Mb
    +++ Convergence criteria satisfied after 14 iterations +++
    +++ Convergence achieved via oscillation check mechanism; check iteration log for further details +++

Oscillation detection can fail, especially when the oscillation is very small. When this occurs, MESSAGE-MACRO will iterate until max_iteration (default 50) and then print a message indicating that it has not converged.

For the MESSAGEix-GLOBIOM global model, this issue can be encountered with scenarios which have stringent carbon budgets (e.g. <1000 Gt CO₂ cumulative) and require more aggressive reductions of demands.

Identifying oscillation

In order to find out whether failure to converge is due to undetected oscillation, check the iteration report. The initial iterations will show the objective function value either decreasing or increasing (depending on the model), but after a number of iterations, the objective function will flip-flop between two very similar values.

Preventing oscillation

The issue can be resolved by tuning max_adjustment and convergence_criterion from their respective default values of 0.2 (20%) and 0.01 (1%). The general approach is to reduce max_adjustment. Reducing this parameter to half of its default value—i.e. 0.1, or 10%—can help, but it can be reduced further, as low as 0.01 (1%).

This may require further tuning of the other parameters: first, ensure that convergence_criterion is smaller than max_adjustment, e.g. set to 0.009 (0.9%) < 0.01. Second, due to the small change allowed to the model solution each iteration, if the initial MESSAGE solution is not close to the convergence point, numerous iterations could be required. Therefore max_iteration may also need an increase.

These changes can be made in two ways:

  1. Pass the values to MESSAGE_MACRO via keyword arguments to Scenario.solve().

  2. Manually edit the default values in MESSAGE-MACRO_run.gms.

Issue 2: MESSAGE solves optimally with unscaled infeasibilities

By default, message_ix is configured so that the CPLEX solver runs using the lpmethod option set to 4, selecting the barrier method. Solving models the size of MESSAGEix-GLOBIOM would otherwise take very long with the dual simplex method (lpmethod set to 2); scenarios with stringent constraints can take >10 hours on common hardware. With lpmethod set to 4 the model can solve in under a minute.

The drawback of using the barrier method is that, after CPLEX has solved, it crosses over to a simplex optimizer for verification. As part of this verification step, it may turn out that the CPLEX solution is “optimal with unscaled infeasibilities.”

This issue arises when some parameters in the model are not well-scaled, resulting in numerical issues within the solver. This page (from an earlier, 2002 version of the CPLEX user manual) offers some advice on how to overcome the issues. The most direct solution is to rescale the parameters in the model itself.

When this is not possible, there are some workarounds:

  1. Adjust CPLEX’s scaling parameter; specify scaind = 1. This will result in more “aggressive” scaling.

  2. Adjust CPLEX’s barrier crossover algorithm; specify barcrossalg = 2. By default, CPLEX will choose between either Primal crossover or Dual crossover. Unscaled infeasibilities will result only with Primal crossover, hence forcing CPLEX to use the latter will resolve the issue. This will result in longer solving times, but will guarantee overcoming the issue.


This solution has been implemented as part of the MESSAGE-MACRO iterations process. During the iterations, a check is performed on the solution status of MESSAGE. When solving with unscaled infeasibilities, in GAMS, the modelstat will be 1 (Optimal) and the solvestat will be 4 (Terminated by Solver). In this case, a secondary CPLEX configuration file is used for subsequent solving of the MESSAGE model. The secondary CPLEX configuration file message_ixmodelcplex.op2 is a duplicate of message_ixmodelcplex.opt with the addition of the argument barcrossalg = 2. This secondary CPLEX configuration file is generated together with the primary CPLEX configuration file in Further information on the status description of GAMS can be found here. These differ from those reported by CPLEX.

  1. Adjust CPLEX’s convergence criterion, epopt (this is distinct from the convergence_criterion of the MESSAGE_MACRO algorithm). In message_ix, DEFAULT_CPLEX_OPTIONS sets this to 1e-6 by default. This approach is delicate, as changing the tolerance may also change the solution by a significant amount. This has not been tested in detail and should be handled with care.

  2. Switch to other methods provided by CPLEX, using e.g. lpmethod = 2. A disadvantage of this approach is the longer runtime, as described above.

The arguments can be passed with the solve command, e.g. scenario.solve(solve_options={“barcrossalg”: “2”}) Alternatively the arguments can be specified either in

message_ix.macro internals

class message_ix.macro.Calculate(s, data)

Perform and store MACRO calibration calculations.

  • s (message_ix.Scenario) – Must have a stored solution.

  • data (dict (str -> pd.DataFrame) or os.PathLike) – If PathLike, the path to an Excel file containing parameter data, one per sheet. If dict, a dictionary mapping parameter names to data frames.


Calculate all necessary derived data, adding to (This is done through method chaining, the bottom of which is aconst() # NB this means it could be rewritten using reporting)


Check and validate structure of data in


ValueError – if any of the require parameters for MACRO calibration (VERIFY_INPUT_DATA) is missing.

message_ix.macro.add_model_data(base, clone, data)

Calculate required parameters and add data to clone.


type – If the data format is not compatible with MESSAGEix parameters.

message_ix.macro.calibrate(s, check_convergence=True, **kwargs)

Calibrates a MESSAGEix scenario to parameters of MACRO

  • s (message_ix.Scenario()) – MESSAGEix scenario with calibration data.

  • check_convergence (bool, optional, default: True) – Test is MACRO-calibrated scenario converges in one iteration.

  • **kwargs (keyword arguments) – To be passed to message_ix.Scenario.solve().


RuntimeError – If calibrated scenario solves in more than one iteration.


s – MACRO-calibrated scenario.

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