Complexity and Energy

Mark   October 28, 2012   Comments Off on Complexity and Energy

In recent months one of the Group’s committee members has been part of a team of researchers considering the overlaps between complexity science and energy policy. Bill Nuttall, now based at the Open University and colleagues from Politecnico di Torino in Italy, MIT in the United States and the Joint Research Centre of the EU have been considering the future of energy supply in a complex world. Many scholars are interested in complexity within the future energy system, especially electricity where smart grids are on the horizon. However this new grouping, led by Professor Ettore Bompard from Turin, is most interested in complexity around the energy system. Such complexity will come from many directions including climate change, social effects, and security threats. Social changes could include demographic shifts, lifestyle alterations, and evolving aspects of social inclusion. Following some initial discussions, Bompard proposed a workshop to spur thinking on such matters, which was held at the EU Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Energy at Petten on the Dutch coast on 24 June 2012. Several speakers presented, including Bill Nuttall. The organisers concluded that there was indeed merit in the emerging ideas and the workshop was followed by the production of a Position Paper soon to be issued by the Joint Research Centre. The aim of the document is to propose a research agenda going forward. That agenda has four core elements: formalisation of the research framework (including boundaries and internal interactions); definition of a formalised environment for studying future smart energy systems; integrative research involving theoretical and practical methodological development and finally application to case studies including aspects of model verification. All concerned believe that research of this type is best performed by those with the broadest range of perspectives, especially national perspectives. Hence it is hoped that research can proceed with European Union support. It is still relatively early days for this thinking and if any NCPG members have insights to offer, or case studies to suggest, then Bill and his colleagues would be delighted to hear from you. Bill can be reached by email