A primary challenge in the near future is to accelerate improvements in human well-being as expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to mitigate climate change, as required by the Paris Agreement. INTERACTION (Resilient Energy Systems for Climate Change and Sustainable Development) recognises that access to energy correlates with improved well-being, that climate change mitigation and adaptation require a rapid transition to sustainable, renewable energy sources, and that stakeholder engagement is key to the success of energy transformations.
August 2019 – August 2021
European Union, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellowship Programme
Dr Robert Brecha
INTERACTION will bridge the gap between high-level modeling of energy systems and evaluation of solutions by working with stakeholders to develop energy-transition pathways, representing realistic implementation strategies in least-developed countries (LDCs) and in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). One outcome of the project will also be to provide regionally-specific feedback to the modelling community. Engagement with stakeholders will focus on multi-dimensional development priorities and commitments made by governments to meet SDGs and climate change mitigation through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Strong existing partnerships with Climate Analytics and other institutes will be leveraged in selected countries to enable consultation and discussion on comprehensive energy-system plans, while ensuring consistency between these plans and countries’ NDCs, climate change adaptation strategies, and SDGs. This country-specific research will provide case studies relevant for other regions as well as fulfill the goal of the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship by enabling the researcher to diversify his expertise in energy systems and to gain experience in energy and sustainable development planning implementation at an international level and in developing countries.
New blog: ‘How West Africa can expand power supply and meet climate goals’
The Conversation Africa, 5 June 2020
Expanding renewable energy and cross-border cooperation could allow developing countries in West Africa to leapfrog or at least minimise the commitment to a climate-damaging future of fossil-fuel energy generation while powering sustainable development. Our new research shows that combining smartly selected, sustainably managed hydropower projects with an expansion of solar and wind energy is a no-regrets way forward for this region.
Full article at The Conversation Africa
Also on the Climate Analytics blog
New study: ‘Smart renewable electricity portfolios in West Africa’
Nature Sustainability 2020, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0539-0
The worldwide growth of variable renewable power sources necessitates power system flexibility to safeguard the reliability of electricity supply. Yet today, flexibility is mostly delivered by fossil fuel power plants. Hydropower can be a renewable alternative source of flexibility, but only if operated according to adequate strategies considering hourly-to-decadal and local-to-regional energy and water needs. Here, we present a new model to investigate hydro–solar–wind complementarities across these scales. We demonstrate that smart management of present and future hydropower plants in West Africa can support substantial grid integration of solar and wind power, limiting natural gas consumption while avoiding ecologically harmful hydropower overexploitation. We show that pooling regional resources and planning transmission grid expansion according to spatiotemporal hydro–solar–wind synergies are crucial for optimally exploiting West Africa’s renewable potential. By 2030, renewable electricity in such a regional power pool, with solar and wind contributing about 50%, could be at least 10% cheaper than electricity from natural gas.
New study published: ‘Threshold Electricity Consumption Enables Multiple Sustainable Development Goals’
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 5047; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11185047 https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/11/18/5047
Access to sufficient amounts of energy is a prerequisite for the development of human well-being. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise the interconnectedness of climate change, energy access and development. However, not all SDG targets are quantified, leaving room for ambiguity in fulfilling, for example, the goal of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (SDG7). We show how specific sustainable development targets for health indicators are strongly correlated with electricity consumption levels in the poorest of countries. Clear thresholds in per capita electricity consumption of a few hundred kWh per year are identified by analysing SDG indicator data as a function of per capita country electricity consumption. Those thresholds are strongly correlated with meeting of SDG 3 targets-below the identified thresholds, countries do not meet the SDG targets, while above the threshold there is a clear relationship between increasing consumption of electricity and improvement of SDG indicators. Electricity consumption of 400 kWh per capita is significantly higher than projections made by international agencies for future energy access, but only 5%–10% that of OECD countries. At the very least, the presence of thresholds and historical data patterns requires an understanding of how SDG targets would be met in the absence of this threshold level of electricity access.
This article belongs to the Special Issue Energy Scenario in the Context of Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement
LEAP energy modelling workshops in West Africa
Dr. Brecha participated in energy modelling workshops in West Africa (Ghana and Burkina Faso) working with stakeholders using the LEAP (Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning) tool. That training was in preparation for using LEAP as part of other Climate Analytics projects in the near future under the IMPACT project. Further collaborations are ongoing between CIREG and INTERACTION to look at the linkages between energy access and achieving SDG goals in West Africa.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion—Flexible Enabling Technology for Variable Renewable Energy Integration in the Caribbean
Many Caribbean island nations have historically been heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels for both power and transportation, while at the same time being at an enhanced risk from the impacts of climate change, although their emissions represent a very tiny fraction of the global total responsible for climate change. Small island developing states (SIDSs) are among the leaders in advocating for the ambitious 1.5 °C Paris Agreement target and the transition to 100% sustainable, renewable energy systems. In this work, three central results are presented. First, through GIS mapping of all Caribbean islands, the potential for near-coastal deep-water as a resource for ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) is shown, and these results are coupled with an estimate of the countries for which OTEC would be most advantageous due to a lack of other dispatchable renewable power options. Secondly, hourly data have been utilized to explicitly show the trade-offs between battery storage needs and dispatchable renewable sources such as OTEC in 100% renewable electricity systems, both in technological and economic terms. Finally, the utility of near-shore, open-cycle OTEC with accompanying desalination is shown to enable a higher penetration of renewable energy and lead to lower system levelized costs than those of a conventional fossil fuel system.
Common but Differentiated Leadership: Strategies and Challenges for Carbon Neutrality by 2050 across Industrialized Economies
Given their historic emissions and economic capability, we analyze a leadership role for representative industrialized regions (EU, US, Japan, and Australia) in the global climate mitigation effort. Using the global integrated assessment model REMIND, we systematically compare region-specific mitigation strategies and challenges of reaching domestic net-zero carbon emissions in 2050. Embarking from different emission profiles and trends, we find that all of the regions have technological options and mitigation strategies to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Regional characteristics are mostly related to different land availability, population density and population trends: While Japan is resource limited with respect to onshore wind and solar power and has constrained options for carbon dioxide removal (CDR), their declining population significantly decreases future energy demand. In contrast, Australia and the US benefit from abundant renewable resources, but face challenges to curb industry and transport emissions given increasing populations and high per-capita energy use. In the EU, lack of social acceptance or EU-wide cooperation might endanger the ongoing transition to a renewable-based power system. CDR technologies are necessary for all regions, as residual emissions cannot be fully avoided by 2050. For Australia and the US, in particular, CDR could reduce the required transition pace, depth and costs. At the same time, this creates the risk of a carbon lock-in, if decarbonization ambition is scaled down in anticipation of CDR technologies that fail to deliver. Our results suggest that industrialized economies can benefit from cooperation based on common themes and complementary strengths. This may include trade of electricity-based fuels and materials as well as the exchange of regional experience on technology scale-up and policy implementation.
Decarbonization of Australia’s energy system – Integrated modeling the transformation of electricity, transportation and industrial sectors
To achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal, current energy systems must be transformed. Australia represents an interesting case for energy system transformation modeling: with a power system dominated by fossil fuels and, specifically, with a heavy coal component, there is at the same time a vast potential for expansion and use of renewables. We used the multi-sectoral Australian Energy Modeling System (AUSeMOSYS) to perform an integrated analysis of implications for the electricity, transport, and selected industry sectors to the mid-century. The state-level resolution allows representation of regional discrepancies in renewable supply and the quantification of inter-regional grid extensions necessary for the physical integration of variable renewables. We investigated the impacts of different CO2 budgets and selected key factors on energy system transformation. Results indicate that coal-fired generation has to be phased out completely by 2030 and a fully renewable electricity supply achieved in the 2030s according to the cost-optimal pathway implied by the 1.5 °C Paris Agreement-compatible carbon budget. Wind and solar PV can play a dominant role in decarbonizing Australia’s energy system with continuous growth of demand due to the strong electrification of linked energy sectors.