Energy systems of the future and thus the climate are affected by a whole range of factors, including energy needs, carbon dioxide tax and new energy technologies. Links that are not always easy to understand. But with a web-based tool, which will be presented at the UN Climate Summit currently taking place in Copenhagen, the user can test the effects of different decisions and energy technology choices.
The tool allows the user to select different conditions for the development of the energy system, such as access to resources, demand for energy and political decisions. The underlying calculation model combines energy technologies with energy sources, bioenergy, fossil fuels, solar energy and nuclear energy, to satisfy needs as cost-effectively as possible.
The climate perspective is presented using a further model, which calculates the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere generated by the resulting energy system. All the results are presented directly on the screen in graphic form. Kristian Lindgren is professor of Complex Systems at the Division of Physical Resource Theory at Chalmers and one of the developers of the tool.
Together with colleagues he has developed this interactive web tool called GETOnline, which is linked to GET (Global Energy Transition Model), the model which researchers into physical resource theory have used to investigate different scenarios for the development of the global energy system from a climate perspective.
“Not surprisingly, a choice with a low carbon dioxide tax and high energy consumption produces an energy scenario that is largely based on oil and coal with a sharp rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. A choice with a higher carbon dioxide tax, high energy consumption and technology for carbon dioxide storage typically produces a scenario where fossil fuels can continue to expand over a period before solar energy becomes the dominant energy source. In this way the user can move forward cautiously and acquire an understanding of the future consequences of the different choices we make today,” explains Kristian Lindgren.
The possibility of showing the model in conjunction with the climate negotiations indicates how urgent it is to have a tool that makes energy and climate issues more readily accessible to a wider group.
Despite the relative simplicity of the tool a first-time user could need some help with familiarisation but then it can be used both in the scientific world and in teaching on different levels. The researchers hope to be able to develop the model further to make it even more useable outside the research world.
“The possibility of personally testing and changing parameters in a simple interface produces quite a different feeling compared to simply reading a report on how various scenarios can be generated using a model. In teaching it offers students a more concrete picture of how and with what means of control we can influence future energy systems”.
“The scenarios the model generates should not be seen as forecasts but more as illustrations of how resources and technologies can be combined cost-effectively to satisfy different energy needs and climate-related limitations,” emphasises Kristian Lindgren.
Researchers can also see the potential for using similar tools in other contexts.
“We are planning to develop this type of interface between a computer simulation and a website for other issues, both in the climate field and at the urban systems centre that will be set up in Gothenburg,” says Claes Andersson, who has a PhD in complex systems and is the person behind the development of the actual interface to GETOnline.
The tool is presented at the EU Pavilion at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.