Our review paper on urban energy modelling has just been published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. This is a paper that should have been written a few years ago when our urban energy systems work started out, but the extra experience has been helpful in understanding how all the different types of models people use fit together. The paper’s divided into three sections: a review of current practice, an analysis of common problems and challenges, and a discussion of future opportunities for improved practice. I’ve been touring this paper for a few months now, and the response has been encouraging.
Energy use in cities has attracted significant research in recent years. However such a broad topic inevitably results in a number of alternative interpretations of the problem domain and the modelling tools used in its study. This paper seeks to pull together these strands by proposing a theoretical definition of an urban energy system model and then evaluating the state of current practice. Drawing on a review of 219 papers, five key areas of practice were identified technology design, building design, urban climate, systems design, and policy assessment each with distinct and incomplete interpretations of the problem domain. We also highlight a sixth field, land use and transportation modelling, which has direct relevance to the use of energy in cities but has been somewhat overlooked by the literature to date. Despite their diversity, these approaches to urban energy system modelling share four common challenges in understanding model complexity, data quality and uncertainty, model integration, and policy relevance. We then examine the opportunities for improving current practice in urban energy systems modelling, focusing on the potential of sensitivity analysis and cloud computing, data collection and integration techniques, and the use of activity-based modelling as an integrating framework. The results indicate that there is significant potential for urban energy systems modelling to move beyond single disciplinary approaches towards a sophisticated integrated perspective that more fully captures the theoretical intricacy of urban energy systems.
Keirstead, J., Jennings, M., & Sivakumar, A. (2012). A review of urban energy system models: Approaches, challenges and opportunities Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16 (6), 3847-3866 DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2012.02.047