Researchers from the UVA create models for simulating the world's energy systems
Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT The Recognised Research Group (Grupo de Investigación Reconocido, GIR) for Energy, Economics, and System Dynamics of the University of Valladolid (UVA) is currently working on several lines of research in order to develop computerised models for simulating the world's global energy systems. The objective is to monitor all energy variables and analyse how they are likely to behave in the future regarding supply and demand.
The development of these models is based on the so-called system dynamics, a methodology created in the 1970s that allows the analysis of the complex relations between some of the variables influencing sustainability and development, with a systemic vision.
Luis Javier Miguel, a lecturer in Systems and Automation Engineering and the director of the International Cooperation Area for Development of the University of Valladolid, explains that these models “allow us to become familiar with the situation and forecast energy consumption, and also to suggest policy or technology alternatives, i.e. changes in the development models, so as to progress towards a sustainable energy situation”.
In other studies the researchers have calculated the limits for non renewable and renewable energy. “We can estimate the fossil resources and how much energy can be extracted from renewable resources, and we can see how on the one hand demand has risen and on the other the situation of the supply. We work with scenarios (hypotheses as to how events may develop in the future that have been standardised by international organisations such as the International Energy Agency –IEA– and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development –OECD–) and we simulate what may happen”, Luis Javier Miguel explains.
The simulations carried out suggest that there may be a difference between the expected supply and demand, which will lead to tension. “As from 2018-2020 we anticipate that there will be an imbalance between the energy supply and demand and it remains to be seen how the situation can be resolved. It is possible that some areas, the poorest on the planet, will be left short of energy. One of the typical consequences of tension is a price rise; logically if a product is scarce and becomes more expensive it will go to whoever can pay more for it”, he adds.
The current objective is to separate this model and study this behaviour over extensive regions of the world, as the results may differ depending on the characteristics of the different areas. It is intended to transfer the model to Europe.
“The European Union wishes to achieve a low carbon economy and the simulation models allow the forecasting of which policies or measures may be the best to do so. This road to transition is influenced by many variables, for instance the timeframe. We cannot go as fast as we would like. If we decide to implement a policy to make all cars electric, this needs time; the vehicles need to be manufactured, to be sold… And we can stimulate this”, he points out.
Spanish transport model
Another of the specialities of the Research Group for Energy, Economics, and System Dynamics of the University of Valladolid (UVA) is the development of a Spanish transport model. Transport is the one of the main energy consuming sectors, to be precise of energy of fossil origin.
“We are beginning to work on this extremely complex model. Apart from direct energy consumption, in other words how much fuel is used, many other factors are involved: the sector of infrastructures, materials… and even the food sector. For example, oil is needed for any food product. If you buy a beef steak that has come from Argentina, the pastures of which has been grown in the United States, the amount of oil required may exceed the weight of the steak itself”, the researcher explains.
Consequences of climatic change
The researchers can obtain a series of data (such as greenhouse gas emissions) from the modelling of global energy systems and from more precise systems that may be useful in the fight against climatic change.
Another of their lines of research is the studying in depth of the consequences of these data regarding global warming. “Our models for fossil resources are very detailed. According to our estimates there is less oil than that predicted by some international organisations, and there will therefore be fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The result is that our climatic scenarios are a little better than those forecast by some international bodies, around 10-20 per cent. Nevertheless, climatic change is absolutely inevitable and the question is how to check it as much as possible and how to adapt to it”, he concludes.
|Research Group for Energy, Economics, and System Dynamics
The Research Group for Energy, Economics, and System Dynamics of the University of Valladolid is working on various lines of research into energy and economics and system dynamics as the most suitable tool for the analysis of the complex relationships between some of the variables influencing sustainability and development. It is made up of a group of lecturers and researchers from various disciplines such as physics, economics, and engineering. Although the team has been working together for several years, it was formally founded as a Recognised Research Group (GIR) of the University of Valladolid in January.