TUE 2:00 PM Parallel - Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency

Full Report:
A Countdown towards Solar Power at Grid Parity: Evolution of Price-Performance, by Nitin Joglekar, Eric Graber-Lopez
This work looks at the topic of solar photovoltaic energy technology diffusion and the ongoing debate related to policy, solar energy price-performance, and timelines for grid parity. The paper creates a dynamic model for the diffusion of solar PV specific to California’s market. It incorporates background literature developed for studying co-evolution of technology and supporting infrastructure as well as models for the electric power industry. Dynamic relationships include infrastructure support, new technology development, external impacts, learning effects, upfront costs development, back-up generation or swing capacity needs, congestion pricing effects, free rider effects, and support costs. Results demonstrate monotonically decreasing costs for solar and a consistent rise in the installed base. A tipping point for capacity growth is identified at $0.08 / kW-hr, and price performance is influenced by both transmission and generation costs. 

Policy implications fall into two categories of technology, promoting infrastructure and technology performance with complementary technology improvements, and the category of incentives and coordination, which involves addressing free rider issues, social goods of job and environmental impacts, as well as capital scarcity. Future work will look at markets beyond California as well as distributed generation and market structure. Questions for the session addressed topics of consumer preference and time-of-day pricing that have yet to be considered. Additional questions regarded long distance transmission considerations and the role of distributed generation, which is also a topic for further research. One comment suggested the authors reflect on integrated resource planning literature that may have implications for the topic.

The Renewable Energy Industry in Massachusetts as a Complex System, by Charles Jones
This work looked at the diffusion of solar photovoltaic technology in Massachusetts as a complex system. Instead of relying on traditional theories of diffusion (either economic threshold or social diffusion models), this paper takes a grounded theoretical approach to the problem. Through a series of interviews with local market participants and subsequent coding of those interviews, a model for the diffusion of solar PV emerges that includes critical factors influencing adoption: market capacity on the supply side and attention and attractiveness on the demand side. While attractiveness and capacity are commonly featured in diffusion models, attention is more nuanced and captures ideas of awareness as well as properties relating to how willing a consumer is to consider PV. A sensitivity analysis is run on the model and different policy instruments are tested, including marketing campaigns, incentives, increasing supply, and standards for capacity. Such policies match standard policies such as incentives, marketing, standards, and procurement. The authors’ grounded theory explored new areas related to PV diffusion while corroborating previous theoretical work in the area. Questions for the session considered how competition was taken into account, individual decision-making processes, and market structure. In general, the model provided was more abstract; an initial model was more concrete but less appropriate for the intent of the research.

South African Energy Model: A System Dynamics Approach, by Josephine Musango, Alan Brent, and Andrea Bassi
This paper looks at developing a system dynamics model of the overall South African energy sector. The overall model included five sub-models for electricity, coal, natural gas, and oil. Threshold 21 is a decision support tool that looks at the economic, social, and environmental dimensions necessary for policy analysis. This work on the energy sector is the preliminary piece of the overall model for South Africa. The model is calibrated to historical data for the energy sector. Then, various policies are explored, including policies for nuclear energy expansion and energy efficiency targets. Energy efficiency measures were found to provide the best alternative for meeting South Africa’s energy requirements in the short term. Though policy for renewable energy is highlighted in the model diagram, it was not explored as one of the scenarios for this presentation. Future work will integrate the energy sub-model with those for the economy, society and the environment. Questions from this section focused on the nuclear policies of South Africa and the willingness of the government, utilities, and society to adopt more nuclear power, which is somewhat unclear. There was also a comment that data was difficult to obtain and is a major challenge for the overall modeling effort.

Katherine Dykes, PhD Candidate, MIT Engineering Systems Division