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Energy Systems in Transition

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENSYSTRA (Energy Systems in Transition)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

By signing the Paris Agreement, the global society, including the EU and its member states, have agreed upon “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels”. To meet the objectives stated in the Paris Agreement, a worldwide energy transition is necessary, not only in terms of how energy is supplied, but also in terms of how energy is transformed and used; an energy system transformation. The far-reaching implications of the energy system transition for technologies, infrastructure, market organisations, consumer behaviour and governance are only partially understood. This challenges the scientific community to develop the interdisciplinary knowledge to better understand the possibilities and impacts of energy system changes, linking analyses of energy technologies, infrastructure and systems with policy approaches, actor behaviour and business models. The Energy Systems in Transition (ENSYSTRA) training network of academic and secondment partners (companies and (semi-)government bodies) is a direct response to this challenge.

This ENSYSTRA network puts together a study of key energy technologies and greenhouse gas mitigation options in the North Sea region in terms of (techno-economic and sustainable) potentials, system integration modelling, and spatial aspects at different spatial scales. It includes political and social drivers, as well as market and energy infrastructure issues. The network combines collaboration between different disciplines, modelling arenas, and involves relevant energy industries and regional authorities. This will be important for the North Sea region, which constitutes the main focus area of this programme, as well as for other comparable regions, both in Europe and in the global arena.

In the ENSYSTRA project 15 ESRs are trained in the state of the art science of energy systems transition, scenario analysis and energy modelling tools and methods. The overall objectives of the ENSYSTRA project are:
-Advance the methodological and modelling capabilities of the energy system analysis field.
-Train ESRs in a strong interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral perspective on energy transition, with strong insight in the linkages between different science fields and methods.
-Provide ESRs with key skills and competences to apply interdisciplinary analysis and state- of-the-art science in an industrial, governmental and applied knowledge institutes setting.
-Establish long term collaboration in the field of (energy) systems analysis between the project partners.
-Create and strengthen the linkages between academic disciplines, industrial sectors and government bodies which are relevant to support the energy transition process of the North Sea region.
-Create wider impact on relevant scientific arenas that come together in energy system integration and transition management.
-To contribute to better accessible energy science based on open -source, -data, -access and – knowledge, and to train ESRs in the practice of open science.
During the first two years of the project, the ENSYSTRA network has been firmly established. The organizational structures have been set, and in the first half of 2018, 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) started working on their individual research projects. This has already resulted in a number of papers submitted to high-ranking journals, and several papers which are soon to be published. Next to publishable outcomes, also several models are being developed, and research data is being collected. This data contains both qualitative and quantitative data, and can provide insight in the performance of energy systems, and the actors that are active in these systems. Current research has among others dived into the interconnection between different energy systems, political processes that structure and guide the energy transition, the role of industry and people and their behaviour in the energy transition, spatial planning in the North Sea area, and how to use different and alternative types of energy for existing energy demand, both in small-scale and large-scale applications.

Also the ESRs have engaged in various dissemination activities and have received training from their hosting universities and from the dedicated ENSYSTRA training programme. This programme consists of various workshops and summer schools. Till date, 4 have been organized and provided an interesting mix between learning transferable skills, interactions with industry and governmental actors, making collaborative research efforts, interdisciplinary research propositions and learning how to translate research into policy advise.

The ESRs conducted several ‘secondment periods’ with the ENSYSTRA secondment partners, a group of industry partners, NGOs, governments and other knowledge institutes. During these periods, the ESRs have been working ‘in-house’ with the secondment partners, learning valuable new perspectives to further develop their research.
Current progress of ENSYSTRA is heading towards the planned results. This implies integrated and integratable models, which are verified in both academia and more applied settings, research which corresponds and relates to modern-day needs, and above all is ready to use for the energy transition. The particular emphasis on interdisciplinary research, which aims to integrate the different knowledge generated by the fifteen ESRs, should ensure results, models and methods which are understandable from different disciplines and perspectives. This goes beyond state of the art in single research disciplines.

Apart from the fact that climate change and the energy transition are an important issue in our society, the ENSYSTRA research in particular is expected to make a considerable contribution to the energy transition, especially in the North-Sea region. Yet, the research and tools developed in the ENSYSTRA project can be easily modified and reproduced for other regions as well. Considering the nature of the generated result, for which suitability for policy advise and potential applications for society and industry are included in the design of the research, and the verifications that are made with secondment partners, industry, governments, other knowledge institutes and NGOs, the impact of the research is expected to be considerable. Also the fact that the network is training 15 highly qualified experts will have an important impact, as these experts will be part of the new generation of energy experts that have to keep the energy transition moving in the future.

In order to disseminate the above described results, and make them available to society, the ENSYSTRA network has developed a dissemination strategy and all researchers are trained in generating the relevant exposure. As part of the anticipated exposure, by the end of the project, 6 policy briefs have been produced, and 6 policy meetings have been organized. The results of the project are also presented at a closing conference, and also translated into publications for a general public, such as for example short videos or blog-posts. Combined, the ESRs, the research, and the dissemination products of ENSYSTRA are expected to make a valuable contribution to the energy transition and reaching the EU climate goals.