In light of the EU's 2030 and 2050 climate targets, the Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy group joins forces with TU Berlin to develop a computer-based infrastructure model featuring electricity, hydrogen and carbon management.
TU Berlin and Breakthrough Energy announced this week a major new project that will combine two advanced computer models into a single, powerful tool that can simulate the energy systems of Europe and the United States. By providing analysis and projections of what key energy infrastructure, such as transmission lines and power plants, might look like in the coming decades, this tool has the potential to guide and inform the allocation of billions of dollars in public and private investment, which will help to build the infrastructure needed to bring clean energy to communities across the world.
The high resolution of the two models across time and geography makes this a uniquely powerful collaboration. The project will also incorporate into the enhanced model a pair of rapidly evolving technologies – hydrogen and carbon management systems, including capture, use in synthetic fuels, and long-term sequestration – that have so far been underrepresented in computer models. These two technologies have the potential to accelerate lagging decarbonization efforts in heavy industries like cement, chemicals, and steel, as well as in transport sectors that require dense fuels, such as aviation and shipping.
Another unique and innovative feature of the project is the commitment of both partners to open-source software and open research data. As energy infrastructure evolves around the world, it is important that there is full transparency about model assumptions as well as a guarantee that any other researcher can easily reproduce the results. The free and open-sourced tool will be rolled out in stages over the next three years.
"Our world's energy systems are often a patchwork of different goals and strategies; as we plan our clean energy future, we need to base our decisions on the best data and modeling tools," said Ann Mettler, vice president of Breakthrough Energy Europe. "With the climate crisis deepening – and with a raft of major climate policy decisions on the horizon – the essential yet behind-the-scenes role of computer modelers at TU Berlin and elsewhere deserves more funding and more attention."
The partnership between TU Berlin and Breakthrough Energy will help researchers in TU Berlin's Digital Transformation in Energy Systems department to incorporate their widely used open-source Python for Power System Analysis (PyPSA) modeling framework, as well as their PyPSA-Eur-Sec European energy system model, into Breakthrough Energy Sciences’ software framework. This framework was recently developed by Breakthrough Energy Sciences, a division of Breakthrough Energy, to examine how energy production, costs, and capacity might change over time.
Similar to the Breakthrough framework, PyPSA is a free software toolbox for simulating and optimizing energy systems. Since its launch in 2015, the development of PyPSA has been led by Prof. Dr. Tom Brown, head of the Department of Digital Transformation in Energy Systems at TU Berlin. PyPSA is used by research institutes, companies and non-governmental organizations across the world. The European version of the model, PyPSA-Eur-Sec, contains detailed information on Europe's energy infrastructure, including 6,000 power lines, 3,600 substations, gas grids, conventional power plants, renewable energy potential, energy converters, and demand for electricity, transport, heat, and industry.
"This is a powerful collaboration that will advance the state-of-the-art in energy systems computer modeling across borders and even continents," said Prof. Dr. Tom Brown. "We're securing the most accurate and appropriate open data on energy systems and then building that data into models and forecasts that will help optimize the power and energy infrastructure of tomorrow."
“By merging the models, TU Berlin and Breakthrough Energy hope to create a leading open-source tool that will allow external system modelers, programmers, software developers, and researchers to test the models with their own assumptions and add new functionality to the Breakthrough tool by integrating PyPSA,” said Yixing Xu, Research Director of Breakthrough Energy Sciences.
TU Berlin is a globally recognized research university with a long tradition. Its goal is to develop science and technology for the benefit of society. The members of the university are committed to the principle of sustainable development. They strive to meet the demands of the present without burdening future generations. TU Berlin considers research and teaching to be inseparable.
Breakthrough Energy is a network of entities and initiatives, including investment funds, nonprofit and philanthropic programs, and policy efforts, connected by a shared commitment to scaling the technologies needed to achieve the path to net-zero emissions by 2050.