Carnegie Mellon University

Open Energy Outlook

Prof. Paulina Jaramillo (Carnegie Mellon University), Dr. Aranya Venkatesh (Carnegie Mellon University), Prof. Joe DeCarolis (NC State University) and Prof. Jeremiah Johnson (NC State University).

The Open Energy Outlookan initiative of the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University in partnership with NC State University, aims to examine U.S. energy futures to inform energy and climate policy efforts by applying the gold standards of policy-focused academic modeling, maximizing transparency, and building a networked community. Supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

Background and Motivation

The United States must pursue rapid and far-reaching efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Policy must drive fundamental changes in the ways we produce and consume energy. Policy makers face the monumental challenge of crafting effective climate policy in the face of highly uncertain expectations about the future, particularly because energy infrastructure is expensive and long-lived.

Energy system models provide a way to examine future energy systems evolution, test the effects of proposed policy, and explore the role of future uncertainty. Model-based analyses can yield insights that inform the policy making process. Unfortunately, many of these computer models are opaque to outsiders and are used to run a few scenarios that produce limited insight. Given the stakes associated with climate change mitigation, we must do better.

Objectives

  1. Refine and expand US energy system modeling capabilities. This effort relies on Tools for Energy Model Optimization and Analysis (Temoa), an open-source, Python- based energy system optimization model. Temoa minimizes the total system-wide cost of energy supply by optimizing the installation and utilization of energy technologies across the entire energy network to meet a set of end-use demands under system- and user-defined constraints. Temoa represents a cutting-edge research tool that allows users to model the whole energy system while accounting for future uncertainty.
  2. Build and maintain an open-source database of the U.S. energy system. The database includes detailed information about the availability and costs of primary energy resources, the cost and performance characteristics of energy technologies across the energy system, and a set of end-use demands within the buildings, transportation, and industrial sectors, at a high spatio-temporal resolution. To maximize transparency, detailed documentation of the input database is being developed and is publicly available online.
  3. Produce a series of analyses that can help inform US policy efforts. Our main deliverable will be an Open Energy Outlook for the United States, produced annually. This publicly available report will include a description of the input data, assumptions, and modeling approaches, as well as the model results and policy relevant insights. Scenario and uncertainty analyses for the report will be informed by engagement with energy stakeholders and experts. Additional model- based analysis, summarized in briefing memos, will be performed to help inform ongoing federal policy discussions.