Connecting the continents. Power system modelling and capacity building for detailed assessments of global power sector decarbonization pathways

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Brinkerink, Maarten
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University College Cork
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Deep decarbonization of the global energy sector is essential for reaching increasingly ambitious climate change mitigation targets. The momentum on global climate action is gathering speed, hence the need for energy research to accurately inform development pathways and decision making processes for the global energy sector is both critical and urgent. Electricity end use is expected to gain a larger role due to the potential for emission reductions in the electricity sector combined with the ability of electricity to displace fossil fuel use in other sectors. While completely decarbonised power systems based on very high penetrations of wind and solar energy are desirable, the technical and economic feasibility of power systems mostly or fully based on renewables remains a matter of debate. Furthermore, from a continental or global perspective, the role of flexible assets such as large-scale transmission interconnections are poorly understood. This thesis develops, applies, and disseminates a number of key foundation blocks for robust assessments of global power system decarbonization pathways by means of open methods and datasets that can be used with a broad range of modelling tools. The author constructs and uses a detailed global power system model with high technical, temporal, and spatial modelling resolution to assess the technical feasibility of scenarios coming from long-term planning models. The methodological open source soft-link framework presented here is carefully designed to respond to known limitations of Integrated Assessment Models in a manner that allows for iterative model coupling to pinpoint and improve key areas of power system representation within Integrated Assessment Models. The thesis results provide insights that planning models struggle to generate, for example regarding curtailment of renewable electricity, occurrence of unserved energy and the operation of flexible assets at hourly modelling resolution. The research pays particular attention to the potential for intercontinental trade of electricity in context of a globally integrated power grid. The main contributions of this thesis are the development, application and dissemination of new methods, datasets and models that improve power system modelling and capacity building efforts at the global scale. The foundation blocks provided by this research are currently contributing to improved assessments of power system decarbonization pathways and are enriching the evidence base underpinning global climate- and energy policy decisions.
Global , Power system modelling , Energy policy
Brinkerink, M. 2021. Connecting the continents. Power system modelling and capacity building for detailed assessments of global power sector decarbonization pathways. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.