Search Results for 'Energy Modeling'

October 25, 2017 — RAEL Lunch — two student presentations! Rachael Green, Modeling Wave Energy systems | Rong Han, Integrated Assessment Models of Land Use Change in China

Two-Stage Monte Carlo Simulation to Forecast Levelized Cost of Electricity for Wave Energy Rachael Green is currently an undergraduate senior at the University of California, Berkeley. She is majoring in Environmental Economics and Policy in the College of Natural Resources with a minor in History from the College of Letters and Science. She has worked as an undergraduate researcher in the collaborative effort between the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory and CalWave Power Technologies, Inc. Despite wave energy’s vast global potential, there has been relatively little commercial deployment to date. This has been partially attributed to the large uncertainty in both the current estimated and future expected electricity generation costs associated with wave technologies. Her presentation quantifies the uncertainty of the forecasted levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for wave energy as it relates to United States and European Union energy targets. Next month she will present this work at the International Conference on Renewable Energy Research and Applications. After graduating, Rachael hopes to continue working in the renewable energy field. Rachael_Green   Rong HAN (Ph.D Candidate in Beijing Institute of Technology, Visiting Scholar in Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute). Research progress of IAMs Downscaling model, Evaluation model and Land use model Rong HAN is currently a third year PhD Candidate in Center for Energy & Environmental Policy Research, Beijing Institute of Technology. She came to Berkeley's Energy and Climate Institute as visiting scholar for one year. During the process of PhD student, her research mainly focus on assessment of global climate policy, China’s carbon emission trading market and carbon finance. These researches have published on Journal of Cleaner Production, Natural Hazards, and Energy Policy. Climate change is a complex and comprehensive process, which can only be understood on the basis of the combined insights from various scientific disciplines. In recent years the need for integration of information among ‘earth system’ (ES), ‘vulnerability, impact, and adaptation assessment’ (VIA), and ‘integrated assessment’ (IA) communities has become stronger. The IAM (integrated assessment models) model is designed to couple of ES and IA models to account of the possible feedbacks between human systems and the earth system on the global scale. Her presentation will be focus on the recent research progress of IMA downscaling model, evaluation model and land use model. RONG  

Modeling the Clean Energy Transition in China

2017-9-12-Chengdu-Summit Portrait Amid growing California-China clean energy partnerships RAEL is partnering with both research and deployment partners in China to accelerate the decarbonization agenda.  In efforts with Tsinghua UniversityChongqing University, and North China Electric Power University, among other academic partners, as well as with local and federal partners in China, RAEL is working to accelerate the deployment of electric transportation, address air and water pollution, and to explore alternatives to the development-environmental degradation nexus.  RAEL doctoral student Anne-Perrine Avrin, who spoke on here work at a recent RAEL Lunch Seminar, is currently working with colleagues in China on electric vehicle adoption strategies (of the 2 million electric vehicles in use world-wide, 1 million are in China and over 200,000 are in California). Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 10.04.17 AM

Prof. Deborah Sunter profiled by the US Department of Energy

Deborah Sunter, Ph.D., spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the Postdoctoral Research Award Program. Sunter’s research explored and expanded a modeling platform designed to help evaluate and meet the United States’ growing energy demands. Her research and contributions have been recognized in the global scientific community.   For the original, click here. Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 2.43.03 PM

Sustaining our Future through Energy Security

Sixty-six percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, according to the United Nations 2014 World Urbanization Prospects report. In the United States, more than 80% of the population already lives in urban areas. The consensus affirms that increased urbanization is the future. As global urbanization and population growth expand, so does energy consumption. Energy security requires an understanding of future energy demands and the environments from which the demands originate. Global population growth and rapid urbanization are being tracked, but climate change throws in the wild card of uncertainty. Urban energy systems are vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather, including storms, flooding and sea-level rise. Urban areas must be resilient to handle these changing conditions if they are to remain sustainable and continue to grow. Mechanical engineer Deborah Sunter, Ph.D., is one of many scientists who have researched the very complex issue of energy security. “Every day is an adventure with new challenges, new collaborations and new ideas,” said Sunter. Sunter received a postdoctoral appointment in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California, Berkeley. Her appointment to the Postdoctoral Research Award Program was funded by the Solar Energy Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Research Participation Program. The prestigious postdoctoral research award supports scientific research in energy efficiency and renewable energy by attracting scientists and engineers to pursue breakthrough technologies in energy research. Sunter spent her two-year appointment at RAEL exploring the SWITCH (Solar and Wind Energy Integrated with Transmission and Conventional Sources) modeling platform. SWITCH is used to examine cost-effective investment decisions for meeting electricity demand, with an emphasis on integrating renewable energy into the electrical grid. Created as an investment planning tool, the model explores the cost and feasibility of future energy initiatives while simultaneously ensuring that current energy demands are met and policy goals are reached at the lowest cost possible. SWITCH meets this objective by making a series of optimized decisions. For example, all power plants have an expected lifetime. When a power plant reaches the end of its life expectancy, SWITCH examines whether it is more cost-effective to upgrade the existing power plant or to retire the power plant and build a new one. SWITCH can determine which type of power plants should be built and where these plants should be located with the goal to produce low-cost energy systems that meet reliability, performance and environmental quality standards. SWITCH was originally designed and produced by Daniel Kammen, Ph.D., and his team at the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California, Berkeley. Kammen served as Sunter’s mentor throughout the program. Since producing the initial papers in 2012, Kammen and a series of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have expanded the toolkit significantly, and SWITCH continues to undergo improvements at RAEL. RAEL is an interdisciplinary laboratory founded by Kammen in 1999; it seeks to advance renewable and appropriate energy through technology innovation and policy implementation. Sunter’s appointment and access to SWITCH allowed her to research the role of technology innovation and policy in reducing emissions, improving efficiency and supplying more renewable energy to the U.S. electrical grid. During her time, Sunter expanded the SWITCH model, originally designed for the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, to encompass the entire continental United States. Sunter helped to convert SWITCH from an older programming language to Python to increase accessibility to the scientific community. She also partnered with private companies to add new emerging technologies to the program’s repertoire, such as Google Project Sunroof and CalWave Power Technologies. Sunter’s accomplishments during her postdoctoral experience are numerous. Sunter published many works with her colleagues during her appointment, most notably a high-impact article with Kammen in the journal Science. The article on urban energy systems has received much attention in the scientific community. Sunter also credits her postdoctoral experience for expanding her research horizons. “Beyond the core research project, I have been able to learn a new subject area, data science, and engage with the greater scientific community in ways that I had not done before,” said Sunter. Sunter used her newly learned skills to win a data science hackathon in solar energy as well as organize a successful forum on data science for sustainability. Sunter has been invited to speak on her research at more than a dozen scientific engagements, and she was selected to be on a team of international authors for a book on inclusive green growth metrics. Throughout her appointment, she shared her expertise with undergraduates at the lab.

“I have been able to do more during this research experience than I possibly could have imagined. It opened doors I didn’t realize I had access to,” Sunter said. “This has been one of the most professionally rewarding experiences of my life. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.”

Immediately following the completion of the program, Sunter became a research fellow at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. Most recently, she has accepted a position as a professor at Tufts University in the Department of Mechanical Engineering for the fall of 2018. The Postdoctoral Research Award Program is funded by the Solar Energy Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Research Participation Program. The program is administered through DOE’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.

RAEL Lunch: 27 February — Advancing Energy and Climate Planning Models: Optimization Methods, Variable Renewables, and Smart Grids

James Merrick’s research focuses on the improvement of mathematical modeling methods to address a variety of energy and climate planning problems. This talk will discuss this research, with an emphasis on how to structure models to provide economic and policy insight, focusing on appropriate valuation of renewables and energy storage options. James completed his PhD in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University in January 2018. He previously completed a dual masters degree in Technology & Policy and Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at MIT, and a Bachelor of Engineering degree at University College Dublin. Since completing his PhD, James applies his research to, and builds optimization models for, EPRI, a stealth robotics startup in San Francisco, and a major electricity generator in Ireland. In addition, James is undertaking a number of research projects with colleagues at NASA, EPRI, and Stanford and when possible, likes to help develop his family’s farm in Ireland. unnamed  

Wave Energy Collaboration: RAEL and CalWave Power Technologies

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wave energy has the potential to power over 100 million US homes, but is completely underutilized at the moment. Wave energy has the advantage of higher predictability, nighttime availability, and a high energy density (~30 kW/m of coastline). Such high energy densities also enable the use of the renewable resource for desalination. The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley has partnered with CalWave Power Technologies, one of the winners of the US Wave Energy Prize, to better assess this potential. To learn more about CalWave, please visit This presentation will include preliminary results from this collaboration including appropriate siting, economic modeling, and performance characterization for wave energy technologies.

Evidence and future scenarios of a low-​​carbon energy transition in Central America: A case study in Nicaragua

A video abstract for the paper is available here. The global carbon emissions budget over the next decades depends critically on the choices made by fast-growing emerging economies. Few studies exist, however, that develop country-specific energy system integration insights that can inform emerging economies in this decision-making process. High spatial- and temporal-resolution power system planning is central to evaluating decarbonization scenarios, but obtaining the required data and models can be cost prohibitive, especially for researchers in low, lower-middle income economies. Here, we use Nicaragua as a case study to highlight the importance of high-resolution open access data and modeling platforms to evaluate fuel-switching strategies and their resulting cost of power under realistic technology, policy, and cost scenarios (2014–2030). Our results suggest that Nicaragua could cost-effectively achieve a low-carbon grid (≥80%, based on non-large hydro renewable energy generation) by 2030 while also pursuing multiple development objectives. Regional cooperation (balancing) enables the highest wind and solar generation (18% and 3% by 2030, respectively), at the least cost (US$127 MWh−1). Potentially risky resources (geothermal and hydropower) raise system costs but do not significantly hinder decarbonization. Oil price sensitivity scenarios suggest renewable energy to be a more cost-effective long-term investment than fuel oil, even under the assumption of prevailing cheap oil prices. Nicaragua's options illustrate the opportunities and challenges of power system decarbonization for emerging economies, and the key role that open access data and modeling platforms can play in helping develop low-carbon transition pathways.

Clean Energy Solutions for Borneo

Rapid economic growth sustained in Southeast Asia throughout the new millennium has led to a surge in large-scale infrastructure projects to facilitate industrial productivity and consumption. The state of Sarawak, located along the northern coast of the island of Borneo, is the poorest and most rural state in Malaysia but has long been a focal point for the development of large-scale hydroelectric power. At least six dams are scheduled to be completed in Sarawak by 2020 as part of a high hydro-potential corridor in central Sarawak. These forests have undisputed global and local significance ecologically, biologically and culturally. In collaboration with local grass-roots renewable project developers and river protection groups we have explored the potential for clean energy alternatives in the state through an integration of modeling tools: (a) modeling long-term utility scale electricity generation alternatives in East Malaysia to determine trade-offs across different technologies; (b) exploring the potential for rural communities in dam-affected areas to satisfy energy access needs using local resources; (c) demonstrating a rapid assessment method for estimating the impact of mega-projects on biodiversity. Each of these studies provides information useful to the discussion of alternatives and furthers the analysis of green economy costs and benefits. Our published findings have influenced policy discussions at the Ministerial level and a moratorium against the Baram Dam was announced in 2015.   Media coverage of our research and the Baram Dam Moratorium:  The Borneo Project, March 21, 2016 - Fantastic new video on "Development without destruction" in Sarawak. Mongabay, October 20, 2015 - Indigenous anti-dam activists converge in Sarawak from around the globe Sarawak Report, September 25, 2015 - BMF Press Statement: Victory, Moratorium on the Baram Dam in Malaysia The Borneo Post, September 27, 2015 - Small is Beautiful: The People Matter   Media coverage of our June 28, 2015 press conference in Kuching, Sarawak: The Borneo Post, August 11, 2015 - Adenan wants SEB to light up the rural areas The Malaysian Insider, July 31, 2015 - Adenan puts Baram dam on hold, agrees to listen to natives’ grouses Radio Free Sarawak, July 15, 2015 - "Sjotveit should be out", say Sarawakians The Malaysian Insider, July 14, 2015 - Stop Baleh dam tender until environmental study scrutinised, says Sarawak PKR, July 8, 2015 - Sarawak can meet energy needs without mega-dams: report BFM 89.9 - The Business Station (, Radio and online interview, July 3, 2015, Clean energy options in East Malaysia The Daily Express - East Malaysia, June 30, 2015 - Sarawak Mega Dam Project Study The Borneo Post, June 29, 2015 - Borneo May See the End of Mega-Dams The Malaysian Insider, June 29, 2015 - Activists say Adenan rethinking mega dams policy in Sarawak Free Malaysia Today, June 29, 2015 - Adenan May Drop Mega Dam Projects The Maylay Mail, June 29, 2015 - CM pulls the brakes on Baram dam until he goes through detailed studies, group claims International Rivers (2014). Better Solutions Than Megadams for Powering Sarawak, Study Finds. World Rivers Review Vol 29. No 2. Page 5. Earlier media coverage of this work on energy alternatives to coal and mega-hydropower projects includes this report in TIME Magazine: February 22, 2011 - Borneo says no to dirty energy Recent discussions of the relationship between mega-dams and earthquakes has also been receiving local coverage in Borneo:

Clean Technica discusses the recent RAEL paper in Nature Climate Change on carbon negative energy systems image3-e1428561412758 The large-scale utilization of electricity generated from biomass partnered with carbon capture technology — dubbed bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) by the researchers — could result in greatly reduced emissions and a “carbon-negative” power system in the western US, according to new research from the University of California at Berkeley. Study lead author, Daniel Sanchez, noted in a recent press release that this combination could potentially offset the carbon emissions associated with other sources as well — such as fossil fuel power plants, and the transportation sector (diesel- and gas-powered vehicles). o be specific, the new research found that BECCS when combined with aggressive renewable energy deployment and fossil fuel–associated emissions reductions could result in a “carbon-negative power system” in Western North America by the year 2050 — with an up to 145% emissions reduction as compared against 1990 levels. Reductions that significant could occur with as little as 7% of total electricity coming from BECCS, according to the new findings — which were arrived at via computer modeling. In many of the other scenarios explored by the new research, the offsetting of carbon emissions provided by BECCS was more valuable to the electric system than the electricity produced itself was. Of course this kind of “value” is a relative one — as all values are. If governments don’t value the offsetting of carbon emissions, for instance,…       Those behind the new research admit that biomass + carbon capture is still a bit of an unknown in many ways, so the findings are tentative ones, until put into practicem that is — which is what the researchers want. image “There are a lot of commercial uncertainties about carbon capture and sequestration technologies,” stated researcher Sanchez. “Nevertheless, we’re taking this technology and showing that in the Western United States 35 years from now, BECCS doesn’t merely let you reduce emissions by 80% – the current 2050 goal in California – but gets the power system to negative carbon emissions: you store more carbon than you create.” Possibly… that is. I admit to having some doubts about this, but interesting work nonetheless. Image Credit: UC Berkeley    

Brighter than Sunshine: Global Solar Energy Potential at the Land-​​Energy-​​Food Nexus

The need to mitigate climate change, safeguard energy security, and increase the sustainability of human activities is prompting a rapid and global transition from carbon-intensive fuels to renewable energy (IPCC 2014). Among renewable energy systems, solar energy has one of the greatest climate change mitigation potentials with life cycle emissions as low as 14 g CO2-eq KWh-1 (carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour; compare this to 608 g CO2-eq KWh-1 for natural gas). Solar energy embodies diverse technologies able to capture the sun’s thermal energy, such as concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, and photons using photovoltaics (PV). Solar energy systems are highly modular ranging from small-scale deployments (≤ 1 megawatt [MW]; e.g., residential rooftop modules, portable battlefield systems, solar water heaters) to centralized, utility-scale solar energy installations (USSE, ≥1 MW) where a large economy of scale can meet greater energy demands. Nonetheless, the diffuse nature of solar energy necessitates that large swaths of space or land be used to collect and concentrate solar energy into forms usable for human consumption, increasing concern over potential impacts on natural ecosystems, their services, and biodiversity therein. For example, at a capacity factor of 0.20, a single terawatt of USSE capacity scales to 142,857 km2, roughly the area of the state of New York, USA, providing challenges for the integration of potentially massive projects into complex and fragmented landscapes.   The decisions humans make about how much land to use, where, and for what end-use are drivers of Earth system processes. For example, changing the use of land or converting it from one land-cover type to another is a source of greenhouse gas emissions, which are released to the atmosphere when biomass, including soil, is disturbed or removed. How then do we decide when to convert a forest that serves as a carbon sink into a farm that feeds a community, or a farm into a PV park that electrifies a rural village? Innovation and policies directing sustainable pathways of land use for energy and food production can be utilized to address an increasing global population of which 1.5 billion today live without access to electricity. Energy poverty leads to a loss of human health and wellbeing and depressed economic and educational opportunities, particularly for women and children. Our research here is designed to demonstrate, quantify, and facilitate the potential of solar energy systems to address global problems related to climate change, energy access, and the sustainability of food systems, which are interconnected. This research draws from ecological field experiments, knowledge data discovery, geographic information systems, spatial and economic modeling, and is comprised of five interrelated projects:

  1. Environmental co-benefits of solar energy
  2. The Energy-Food-Water Cube: Capability and scalability in on-farm energy production
  3. Global solar energy brightspots: Shinning light on the world’s energy insecure
  4. The land-energy-food nexus in California's Central Valley
  5. Limits of land: Global estimates of land for food and energy

High-​​resolution modeling of the western North American power system demonstrates low-​​cost and low-​​carbon futures

Decarbonizing electricity production is central to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Exploiting intermittent renewable energy resources demands power system planning models with high temporal and spatial resolution. We use a mixed-integer linear programming model – SWITCH – to analyze least-cost generation, storage, and transmission capacity expansion for western North America under various policy and cost scenarios. Current renewable portfolio standards are shown to be insufficient to meet emission reduction targets by 2030 without new policy. With stronger carbon policy consistent with a 450 ppm climate stabilization scenario, power sector emissions can be reduced to 54% of 1990 levels by 2030 using different portfolios of existing generation technologies. Under a range of resource cost scenarios, most coal power plants would be replaced by solar, wind, gas, and/or nuclear generation, with intermittent renewable sources providing at least 17% and as much as 29% of total power by 2030. The carbon price to induce these deep carbon emission reductions is high, but, assuming carbon price revenues are reinvested in the power sector, the cost of power is found to increase by at most 20% relative to business-as-usual projections.

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