Can YOU solve the world’s energy problems?

Hello again! I’d like to say I’ve been spending all my time since my last post prudently sitting in the library, my pince-nez perched atop my nose as I gaze down at the reading, never losing focus. I’d like to say that – and although I have been drinking enough coffee to warrant such action, I’ve been spending a lot of my time enjoying my last few weeks in Iceland, as I prepare to head back to the land of the free mid-December to work on my thesis through the spring. I’ve been biking, cooking, playing volleyball, spending time with family, and of course, completing my last semester at the University, despite being hampered by a mild case of senioritis.

But in the name of scholarly pursuits I’d like to share with something I found through my latest assignment, which is surprisingly fun one aimed at understanding the intricacies of energy planning into the future. Many countries have set ambitious goals for themselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain time, usually through 2050, and different countries employ different policies and incentives to reach those goals. From carbon trading to a reduction in consumption, there are myriad ways to achieve a healthier energy future. DECC, the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, has developed a handy tool available to anyone who wants to see what goes in to this complex decision-making process. Here’s a screenshot from the main page:

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As you can see, the factors of each category are listed below, and it is up to the user to change the quantity in order to affect the 2050 outcome. If I increase wind power, for instance, the model will replace the mix of coal and oil to account for that, and in turn the emissions will be lowered. On the demand side, if transport becomes more efficient, there will be less energy required overall. This is an incredibly sophisticated and comprehensive model based on numerous assumptions about energy in the UK, which can be viewed in the accompanying Excel manual.

Moving on to some of the other tabs, “Flows” presents a striking visual which allows the user to see the life cycle of each source:

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I’ve actually included a similar flow diagram from EcoFys in a previous post about global GHG emissions, and I still think this representation is an excellent simplification of something that is incredibly complex.

Finally, what is probably most important, the cost – dun dun dunnnnnn:

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The model allows you to see the cost of your future energy scenario in relation to other plausible outcomes, as proposed by different entities.

Although this is specific to the UK, the model is super useful for understanding the impact even the slightest energy change can have on daily life and expenses, political frameworks, and the economy. I’d definitely recommend checking it out and playing around with it a bit – who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to figure out the answer..

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