IEW 2018
Energy systems modeling does not predict the future. But it can extract useful insights for policymakers and for the society, when deciding which path to choose. ​​​
Illus​tration: PopTika, Shutterstock. 

The latest and greatest in energy systems modeling

Chalmers is hosting the 37th Edition of IEW – the International Energy Workshop – on June 19-21. The IEW is one of the leading conferences for the international energy modeling research community. 
- I’ve been attending IEW for more than 15 years. The reason that it attracts me to attend every year is that it’s a community conference that brings the leading figures and young researchers together presenting very high-quality research in energy system modeling, says Sonia Yeh, professor of Transport and Energy Systems and head of the organizing committee for IEW 2018. ​
Energy systems modeling is a growing field of research and an increasingly important tool for addressing the complexity of planning and policy making relating to energy. There are many moving parts that interact in an energy system, and many constraints – concerning economy and environment – to take into consideration when choosing a route forward. 

– We try to take a systems perspective and look at the interactions and dynamics within an energy system. In recent years we have focused on how to best incorporate energy from renewable sources or increase the use of electric vehicles in current or future systems. How does supply and demand interact with each other? How will different policy solutions impact the system? It’s really important to look at how different components influence each other, so you don’t focus on one problem and miss other aspects, says Sonia Yeh professor at the division of Physical Resource Theory at Chalmers' department of Space, Earth and Environment. 

An energy system has typically social, technical and economic aspects, and the research is usually focused on long term models, from 10 up to a 100 years.  
– Most people have the misconception that energy models can predict the future. But that is not the case. The future is impossible to predict given all the knowable and unknowable uncertainty. The science (or art) of energy modeling is about simplifying really complicated realities into problems that are manageable and solvable and to extract useful insights for policymakers and for the society. It is not about making projections or forecasts.

Three days - three subject areas​
At this year’s conference 116 research papers will be presented, and six keynote speakers will provide high level overviews and summarize the latest research frontiers in three subject areas – climate policy, renewable energy technologies and consumer behaviour. (Read the full program for IEW 2018 here​). 

– All keynote speakers will be really interesting, but I am especially looking forward to the first day, with keynotes Reyer Gerlagh from Tilburg School of Economics and Management and Thomas Sterner from the School of business, economics and law at the University of Gothenburg. They will be speaking on lessons learned from historical and more recent international climate and energy policy making. 

Two of the departments at the Department of Space, Earth and Environment – Physical Resource Theory and Energy Technology whose research complement each other when it comes to the field of energy systems modeling – are working together organizing the conference. Not only the faculty and senior researchers devoted their time organizing, reviewed over 250 high-quality submitted abstracts and planned the program, 10 PhD students will volunteer at the conference. The conference receives sponsorships from many international organizations and Chalmers Energy Area of Advance. 

Gender balanced conference​ 
– One of the goals for this year is to bring the gender balance and diversity to this traditionally male-dominated field. This year the conference program has a perfect gender balance of 50-50 in keynote speakers, program committee, session chairs and volunteers. Gender balance and diversity are not the ends by themselves, but the means to an end where everyone’s work and contributions are being appreciated and recognized equally, says Sonia. 

IEW will also connect back to another high-level conference held at Chalmers last month – the International Negative CO2 Emissions conference – via a side event. 

– Hosting two eminent conferences in one year has significantly raised the profile of Chalmers in the international stage”, says Mariliis Lehtveer, organiser of the negative emissions side event, conference coordinator and also a postdoctoral researcher at the Division of Energy Technology.

– The contributions from our faculty, senior researchers, and PhD students, are the best tool we have to put Chalmers on the map, says Sonia Yeh.   

Visit the web site for the International Energy Wiorkshop, IEW 2018 for more information and a full program. 

Text and photos: Christian Löwhagen

Published: Thu 07 Jun 2018.