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Macro-energy systems: The science of the energy transition

While the study of large-scale human energy systems is not new, climate change concerns and advances in computation have created a growing area of study with an increasingly rich set of tools and questions. This work, though, is scattered across many research communities. We propose uniting these efforts under a common discipline, which we call "macro-energy systems." The discipline is distinguished by common questions and methodologies that are honed to grapple with very large-scale energy systems.

People interested in a future workshop about macro-energy systems and otherwise helping to develop a community around this discipline are encouraged to enter their contact information on the left.

To illustrate the types of questions that this discipline encompasses, below is a selection of publications at Stanford and beyond that fall within the purview of macro-energy systems.

Selected Examples of Macro-Energy Systems Research at Stanford

Alvarez, R. A. et al (2018). Assessment of methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas supply chainScience, 361(6398), 186–88.

Baik, E., Sanchez, D. L., Turner, P. A., Mach, K. J., Field, C. B., & Benson, S. M. (2018). Geospatial analysis of near-term potential for carbon-negative bioenergy in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences115(13), 3290-3295.

Barnhart, C. J., & Benson, S. M. (2013). On the importance of reducing the energetic and material demands of electrical energy storageEnergy & Environmental Science6(4), 1083-1092.

Barnhart, C. J., Dale, M., Brandt, A. R., & Benson, S. M. (2013). The energetic implications of curtailing versus storing solar-and wind-generated electricity. Energy & Environmental Science, 6(10), 2804-2810.

Bistline, J. E., Weyant, J. P. (2013). Electric sector investments under technological and policy-related uncertainties: a stochastic programming approachClimatic Change; 121(2), 143-160.

Brodrick, P. G., Brandt, A. R., Durlofsky, L. J. (2018). Optimal design and operation of integrated solar combined cycles under emissions intensity constraintsApplied Energy, 226, 979–90.

Carbajales-Dale, M., & Benson, S. M. (2013). The energy balance of the photovoltaic (PV) industry—Is the PV industry a net energy providerEnvironmental Science and Technology47(7), 3482-3489.

Carbajales-Dale, M., Barnhart, C. J., Brandt, A. R., & Benson, S. M. (2014). A better currency for investing in a sustainable future. Nature Climate Change, 4(7), 524-527.

Davis, S. J., Lewis, N. S., Shaner, M., Aggarwal, S., Arent, D., Azevedo, I. L., Benson, S.M. ... & Clack, C. T. (2018). Net-zero emissions energy systems. Science, 360(6396), eaas9793.

de Chalendar, J.A. and Benson, S.M. (2019). City-scale decarbonization experiments with integrated energy systems. Energy & Environmental Science, 12, 1695-1707.

Felgenhauer, M. F., Pellow, M. A., Benson, S. M., & Hamacher, T. (2016). Economic and Environmental Prospects of Battery and Fuel Cell Vehicles for the Energy Transition in German Communities. Energy Procedia, 99, 380-391.

Felgenhauer, M. F., Pellow, M. A., Benson, S. M., & Hamacher, T. (2016). Evaluating co-benefits of battery and fuel cell vehicles in a community in California. Energy, 114, 360-368.

Larsen, P. H., LaCommare, K. H., Eto, J. H., Sweeney, J. L. (2016). Recent trends in power system reliability and implications for evaluating future investments in resiliencyEnergy 117, 29-46

Merrick, J. H., Weyant, J. P. (2019). On choosing the resolution of normative modelsEuropean Journal of Operational Research, 279(2), 511–23.

Morrison, G. M., Yeh, S., Eggert, A. R., Yang, C., Nelson, J. H., Greenblatt, J. B., Isaac, R., ... &, Zapata, C. B. (2015). Comparison of low-carbon pathways for CaliforniaClimatic Change, 131(4), 545-557.

Pellow, M. A., Emmott, C. J., Barnhart, C. J., & Benson, S. M. (2015). Hydrogen or batteries for grid storage? A net energy analysis. Energy & Environmental Science, 8(7), 1938-1952.

van Benthem, A., Gillingham, K., Sweeney, J. (2008). Learning-by-doing and the optimal solar policy in California. Energy Journal, 29(3), 131-151.

Von Wald, G. A., et al (2019). Biomethane addition to California transmission pipelines: Regional simulation of the impact of regulationsApplied Energy, 250, 292-301

Wilkerson, J. T., Cullenward, D., Davidian, D., Weyant, J. P. (2013). End use technology choice in the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS): An analysis of the residential and commercial building sectorsEnergy Economics, 40, 773-784.

Wilkerson, J. T., Leibowicz, B. D., Turner, D. D., Weyant, J. P. (2015). Comparison of integrated assessment models: Carbon price impacts on US energyEnergy Policy, 76: 18-31.


Selected Macro-Energy Systems Community Examples

Bazilian, Morgan, Patrick Nussbaumer, Hans-Holger Rogner, Abeeku Brew-Hammond, Vivien Foster, Shonali Pachauri, Eric Williams, et al. (2012). Energy Access Scenarios to 2030 for the Power Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. Utilities Policy, 20(1), 1–16.

Brown, Marilyn A. (2001). Market Failures and Barriers as a Basis for Clean Energy Policies. Energy Policy, 29(14), 1197–1207.

DeCarolis, J.F., and Keith, D.W. (2006). The economics of large-scale wind power in a carbon constrained world. Energy Policy, 34, 395–410.

Grübler, Arnulf, Nebojša Nakićenović, and David G Victor. (1999). Dynamics of Energy Technologies and Global Change. Energy Policy, 27(5), 247–80.

Hobbs, Benjamin F. (1995). Optimization Methods for Electric Utility Resource Planning. European Journal of Operational Research, 83(1), 1–20.

Kaya, Y., and Yokobori, K. (1997). Environment, Energy, and Economy: Strategies for Sustainability. United Nations University Press.

Peters, Glen P., and Edgar G. Hertwich. (2008). CO2 Embodied in International Trade with Implications for Global Climate Policy. Environmental Science & Technology, 42(5): 1401–7.

Riahi, K., Dentener, F., Gielen, D., Grubler, A., Jewell, J., Klimont, Z., Krey, V., McCollum, D., Pachauri, S., Rao, S., et al. (2012). Energy Pathways for Sustainable Development. In Global Energy Assessment: Toward a Sustainable Future. Cambridge University Press, 1203–1306.

Sepulveda NA, Jenkins JD, Sisternes FJ de, Lester RK. (2018). The role of firm low-carbon electricity resources in deep decarbonization of power generation. Joule, 2(11), 2403-2420.

Siler-Evans, K., Azevedo, I.L., Morgan, M.G., and Apt, J. (2013). Regional variations in the health, environmental, and climate benefits of wind and solar generation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 110, 11768–11773.

Solomon, A.A., Kammen, D.M., and Callaway, D. (2014). The role of large-scale energy storage design and dispatch in the power grid: A study of very high grid penetration of variable renewable resources. Applied Energy, 134, 75–89.

Trutnevyte, E. (2016). Does cost optimization approximate the real-world energy transition? Energy, 106, 182–193.

Wilson, C., A. Grubler, N. Bauer, V. Krey, and K. Riahi. (2013). Future Capacity Growth of Energy Technologies: Are Scenarios Consistent with Historical Evidence? Climatic Change, 118 (2), 381–95.