The electricity sector is transitioning from a central authority—regulators, utilities, system operators, and planners—to one that is increasingly driven by a mix of technologies, decentralized operators, and new market mechanisms and reforms. The digitization of technology – such that we can communicate with, through and about physical systems in real time, has changed the game, ushering us into what some call the “4th industrial revolution”.
Advances in digitization and the dramatic decline in the costs of decentralized technologies allow service providers to build dynamic, responsive, and integrated energy systems that can capitalize on value-based pricing and incentivize grid services that could push total system efficiencies to levels previously unknown or allow customers to defect from the grid altogether. Utilities in emerging economies – cash-strapped and challenged with the need to develop industrial scale energy solutions, the mandate to deliver basic universal energy access – may be best poised to leverage these global technological advances, requiring an integrated approach to systems planning.
This body of work experiments with the integration of energy modeling tools and technologies for emerging economies to design sustainable transition pathways. Using a combination of power system simulation, ecological modeling and spatial analysis tools, we explore the potential for and trade-offs of, future energy scenarios, to directly inform energy systems development and transition pathways. What exactly does the digital utility of the future look like? What are the technologies that enable it? Do major services like power and transportation begin to merge in this future? What socio-ecological impacts does it have? What benefits does it bring? And what are the steps to getting there?