From Past to Future of Home Energy - Applying History and a “What-If” Sandbox to Inform Energy Systems Transitions
September 29, 2020
Energy Research and Development (500)
Electric Program Investment Charge - EPIC
Mithra Moezzi, Aaron Ingle, Loren Lutzenhiser
California has ambitious goals for a rapid energy transition to help slow climate change, while managing the effects of climate change itself. The goals call for an overhaul of energy supply and major changes to energy demand technologies that would transform how society uses energy, involving entire systems of people, technology, and practices. Planning for this scale and scope of change requires tools, frameworks, and knowledge different from those developed for energy efficiency.
This exploratory research project focuses on three contributions for planning this transition developed for the realm of household energy use. The first is SIMSAND, a user-oriented simulation tool (a “sandbox”) for exploring future energy scenarios for California households, implemented for space cooling. SIMSAND uses agent-based modeling to represent energy use diversity and dynamic technical-environmental-behavioral interactions within households. Users can model various “What if” scenarios resolved by coordinating multiple data streams intersecting at the household level. SIMSAND was developed at a proof-of-concept level.
Second, the project highlights a need for shifting transition scenarios to better capture how technology and social changes unfold in the real world. Developing and exploring these scenarios would help planning and research go beyond “Could we do this?” to consider crucial “What if?,” “Should we?,” and “How to?” questions reflecting the scale of climate change challenges and ambitions.
Third, the project analyzes histories of household energy demand technologies, considering their implications for climate-focused technology policies. The analysis illustrates observed patterns in real-world technology change that contrast from idealized projections. These histories can help construct more realistic scenarios which in turn can be addressed by tools such as SIMSAND.
This combination of history, scenario development, and modeling capabilities allows energy transition planners to explore possible futures using a broader range of available evidence—a breadth needed given the scale and scope of climate change.