2016 Progress Report: Project 1: Modeling Emissions from Energy Transitions

EPA Grant Number: R835871C001
Subproject: this is subproject number 001 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R835871
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate and Health Center (SEARCH)
Center Director: Bell, Michelle L.
Title: Project 1: Modeling Emissions from Energy Transitions
Investigators: Zimmerman, Julie B. , Eckelman, Matthew J. , Ellis, J. Hugh , Gillingham, Kenneth , Hobbs, Benjamin F. , Wara, Michael W. , Weyant, John P.
Institution: Yale University , Stanford University , The Johns Hopkins University
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2020
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 2015 through September 30,2016
RFA: Air, Climate And Energy (ACE) Centers: Science Supporting Solutions (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Integrated Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change , Airborne Particulate Matter Health Effects , Air , Climate Change , Social Science , Economics and Decision Sciences , Particulate Matter


In Project 1, researchers are collaborating with the SEARCH Center Policy and Decision Making Support Unit and state air regulatory agencies to develop a suite of energy transition scenarios representing many drivers and shifts in the energy sector that could impact regional emissions and air quality. These transitions are being modeled using the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS). NEMS results will be downscaled, and combined with emissions from indirect energy use determined through lifecycle cost assessment (LCA), for input into air quality simulation models, run in Project 3 by researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

Progress Summary:

Development of transition scenarios: The Project 1 and Policy and Decision Making Support Unit teams held webinar and in-person meetings with members and staff from air regulatory commissions in Mid-Atlantic (MARAMA) and New England (NESCAUM) states to present proposed energy transition scenarios and received feedback on priorities and concerns, which were incorporated in a set of revised transition scenarios and descriptions.

Modeling transition scenarios in NEMS: We have focused on getting a working version of NEMS running. Contacts at the Energy Information Agency helped us to acquire the most recent version of the NEMS code. We also purchased required hardware and associated software. To adapt the NEMS code to our purposes, we have made numerous changes to the code. We have been making steady progress in addressing compatibility issues, using expertise at both Yale and Johns Hopkins University. We have successfully addressed issues related to compilation, processes by which data is read, and the need to adapt several variables in the commercial demand module. The entire model is running, and verification checks are underway. Before we received the NEMS code from EIA, we performed an extensive review of the literature that uses the NEMS model. This review identified how energy transitions have previously been modeled in NEMS and helped to lay the groundwork for our more detailed development of the energy transition scenarios. More recently, we have been meeting with the policy team to further develop the energy transitions and prioritize the ones we will be addressing first.

Downscaling: We have begun building tools to downscale NEMS results, using published NEMS results from the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2016. The tools are based on a methodology developed by researchers at EPA that converts results from a different energy model (MARKAL) to data that can be easily input into air quality simulation processes. This downscaling method produces a set of spatially and sectoral-differentiated emission growth rates, which will be used by Project 3 for processing and air quality simulation. Coordination between the Project 1 and Project 3 teams has begun.

Life Cycle Assessment: The Project 1 LCA team has been preparing input-output databases for integration with NEMS by creating appropriate sector mappings. Two databases, one that focuses on trade (EXIOPOL) and one on domestic manufacturing (EPA’s U.S. input-output model), are being explored. The team also is evaluating the current state of health damage factors used in LCA and implementing cases studies, for criteria pollutants, GHGs, and air toxics.

Future Activities:

Development of transition scenarios: Final transition scenarios will be developed with input from internal teams and external stakeholders.

Modeling transition scenarios in NEMS: Our next goal is to successfully replicate the Annual Energy Outlook 2016 results to verify that there are no outstanding errors, consistent with the Project 1 QAPP. At that point, we will begin implementing runs of the energy transition scenarios, with the current plan being to begin with widespread distributed generation and demand response as well as greater electric vehicle penetration. Modeling these scenarios will involve a combination of utilizing existing levers in the model and making changes to the underlying code for more complex or novel scenarios. Input data for these runs will be documented by the logging procedure described in the QAPP.

DownscalingWe will refine and evaluate new temporal and spatial downscaling approaches, and develop protocols for transferring NEMS results. We will also continue to coordinate with Project 3 on procedures for sharing data (both transferring downscaled growth rates and meteorological information necessary for modeling transition scenarios) and to ensure the new downscaling methods can be implemented by the air quality simulation team. Anticipating that we will have more NEMS transition runs than will ultimately be analyzed for air quality impacts, our team will develop a method to prioritize which transitions are most significant from a public health perspective. These will likely be scenarios that show relatively larger growth or more significant changes in spatial distribution for ozone precursors and particulate matter.

Life Cycle Assessment: We will finalize industry sector mapping and conduct baseline LCA simulations based on AEO 2016 results, with the input-output models providing a complementary set of information on up-stream manufacturing. The LCA and downscaling teams will work together to produce a complete set of downscaled emissions. The LCA team will also hold an internal workshop on how current LCA models incorporate health damage factors.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 3 publications for this subproject

Supplemental Keywords:

Emissions downscaling, energy-economic modeling, energy transitions, Lifecycle Assessment, LCA, National Energy Modeling System, NEMS, pollution prevention, social science, systems analysis

Relevant Websites:

SEARCH (Solutions for Energy, Air, Climate, & Health) Center | Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2017 Progress Report

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R835871    Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate and Health Center (SEARCH)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R835871C001 Project 1: Modeling Emissions from Energy Transitions
    R835871C002 Project 2: Assessment of Energy-Related Sources, Factors and Transitions Using Novel High-Resolution Ambient Air Monitoring Networks and Personal Monitors
    R835871C003 Project 3: Air Quality and Climate Change Modeling: Improving Projections of the Spatial and Temporal Changes of Multipollutants to Enhance Assessment of Public Health in a Changing World
    R835871C004 Project 4: Human Health Impacts of Energy Transitions: Today and Under a Changing World