Energy systems analysis for the energy transition: key research challenges and (some) solutions

Energy systems analysis for the energy transition: key research challenges and (some) solutions

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Abstract of the talk:

Wide scientific consensus reflects the need to decarbonize the global energy system, which is responsible for over 90\% of greenhouse gas emissions. This requires drastic reductions in energy demand, across sectors, energy vectors and energy services, combined with a shift to much more sustainable energy supply systems. As well as technological solutions, a successful energy transition will rely on social engagement and public acceptance. The fact that around 70\% of the global population currently lives in cities, means that urban areas and buildings will continue to be important focus areas.Energy systems analysis (ESA) has emerged relatively recently as an interdisciplinary research field in its own right. It provides decision support to research and energy policy questions by developing and applying models to energy systems and markets at diverse spatial and temporal scales. But the ESA field faces challenges imposed by the energy transition: just as the energy sector itself is undergoing fundamental structural change, so also does ESA have to reinvent itself. In particular, this means reassessing the ways models are built and applied, by questioning existing assumptions, whilst including a wider diversity of scientific expertise and actively engaging with the stakeholders for whom the models' results are intended.This lecture will take this point of departure to introduce the central problem of complexity in ESA for the energy transition, which mainly results from a large number of available measures as well as the number of involved parties, each of which have strong interactions. ESA models are able to quantify the trade-offs and interactions between individual measures, as well accounting for different actors’ perspectives. After a short introduction, the lecture will highlight some specific challenges, for example increased data requirements, dealing with growing complexity, accounting for a heterogeneous and changing demand side, considering enhanced flexibility and integration of the whole system, and defining the system boundary. Examples of solutions to some of these challenges from the authors own and others’ work will be presented, followed by an outlook over future research needs.

Short Biography of Professor Russell McKenna

Prof Russell McKenna holds the Personal Chair in Energy Transition since joining the School of Engineering in June 2020. Previously he led the Energy Systems Analysis group at DTU Management, the Technical University of Denmark (2018-2020), and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency group at the Chair of Energy Economics at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT), Germany (2009-2018). He has a background in engineering and an interdisciplinary research career spanning energy-related engineering, economics and management. His research involves developing and applying Operations Research (OR) methods to low carbon energy systems and can be organized into four broad interconnected and overlapping themes: developing geospatial methods to assess resources (costs and generation potentials) for low carbon energy sources with open data; developing and applying energy system models of low carbon energy systems; the socioeconomic dimensions of energy demand in time and space; and energy infrastructure, sector coupling and energy system integration. Russell has published around 120 publications, of which 50 are in highly ranked peer-reviewed journals, with an h-index of 21. He has co-organised international conferences, edited proceedings and acted as an expert reviewer for the European Commission, the Humboldt Foundation, the Academy of Finland and the French ANR.

Professor Russell McKenna
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