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. , Hobbs, Benjamin F. , Eckelman, Matthew J. , Weyant, John P. , Wara, Michael W. , Ellis, J. Hugh , Gillingham, Kenneth
Institution: Yale University , The Johns Hopkins University , Northeastern University , Stanford University
Current Institution: Yale University , Stanford University , The Johns Hopkins University
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2020 (Extended to September 30, 2022)
RFA: Air, Climate And Energy (ACE) Centers: Science Supporting Solutions (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Climate Change , Airborne Particulate Matter Health Effects , Air , Social Science , Environmental Justice , Particulate Matter


Transitions in the U.S. energy system will profoundly influence regional emissions and air quality. Examples include adoption of electric vehicles; expanding distributed electric generation, renewables, and demand response; growing unconventional oil and natural gas; climate change impacts on energy use; and a transition to a carbon-constrained economy. We plan to inform sound policy by:

  1. Developing scenarios describing the transitions;
  2. Modeling these scenarios in the state-of-the-art U.S. DOE National Energy Modeling System (NEMS) to project future energy use, technology adoption, and emissions by region;
  3. Using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to model additional pollutants not currently in NEMS including manufacture of technologies; and
  4. Downscaling emissions to temporal and spatial scales needed for air quality simulation and evaluating alternative downscaling methods that account for regional policies, siting of new generation, and changed operations.

Results will be used by Projects 3 and 4 to estimate effects on air quality and health. Findings will provide insights on regional effects of energy transitions, including impacts upon vulnerable populations. Sensitivity analyses will bound the estimates’ uncertainty. We hypothesize that the energy transitions will be mediated by energy, transport, and other factors that can be influenced by policy, pointing to novel solutions that recognize regional aspects of emissions and air quality and account for a changing climate.


To achieve the objectives we will:

  1. Develop detailed policy-relevant scenarios through reviewing the literature and collaborating with the Decision Maker Team of air directors and the Policy and Decision Making Unit;
  2. Model detailed, novel scenarios, including modifiable factors, through NEMS for 4 decades;
  3. Apply LCA to expand the suite of emissions modeled; and
  4. Implement a state-of-the-art NEMS-SMOKE modeling approach to emissions downscaling, with comparison to alternative methods that capture sub-regional policies.

Expected Results:

The comprehensive NEMS projections of major energy transitions will provide guidance on the most effective modifiable factors for protecting regional environmental, health, and societal well-being in the context of a changing climate. The LCA will provide an innovative broader perspective upon emissions from the transitions, including from manufacturing. Alternative downscaling approaches will show how impacts can be mediated by regional policy. Key outcomes include a deeper understanding of the regional effects of air, energy, and climate policies, as they interact with the energy transitions. The project will bridge disciplines, enhancing state-of-the-art science in air, climate and energy modeling.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 3 publications for this subprojectView all 114 publications for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

energy-economic modeling, pollution prevention, social science, systems analysis

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020

  • 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