We have been engaged in an effort to try to understand, and communicate to people who can influence decisions, fundamental aspects of our electricity system using a fairly simple model representing energy system capacity and hourly dispatch decisions. We call this model MEM, for Macro Energy Model. Complicated models are important for making near-term and geographically specific energy system decisions. However, when it comes to century scale transitions, we are making decisions under conditions of deep uncertainty, where understanding fundamental dynamical relationships can be more important than representing detail. Simple models have the advantage of being transparent and understandable, and in some configurations they execute rapidly which allows a deeper exploration of parameter space. On the other hand, the question of "How simple is too simple?" looms, and we risk eliminating important detail which can affect fundamental conclusions. In this talk, I will discuss some of our work using a simple electricity system model, looking at electricity storage, the degree to which nuclear power might facilitate further penetration of wind and solar power, and how we might think about rational allocation of clean energy R&D portfolios aimed at a long-term transition to a near-zero-emission energy system. I will also discuss our efforts and plans to extend this model to consider both fuels and energy services.
Speaker: Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution for Science
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Stanford, CA 94305
Website: Click to Visit