Heating Energy Modeling with Breakthrough Energy

Lead PI: Dr. Vijay Modi

Unit Affiliation: Quadracci Sustainable Engineering Lab

October 2020 - September 2022
North America ; United States
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The Breakthrough Energy (BE) Sciences Team would like to work with Columbia University to propose a two-year project timeline with a “go-no go” checkpoint at the end of the first year.

BE has developed an open-source modelling platform for the entire contiguous U.S. with high spatial and temporal resolution to study renewable integration and reduce emissions. The model has high fidelity to current loads, renewable resource locations/variability and electric grids across the country.

A key aspect of the energy transition is to understand how loads that are not currently electric- in particular heating, transport and industry would be electrified and how they dovetail or not with progressively cleaner electric grids with higher variability. Heating and transport loads are geographically dispersed across the country. There are nearly 125 million households in the US, with a quarter trillion sq. ft .of residential space (and a third as much of commercial space) that are heated either with on-site heating from fossil-fuels or with electric heat- but commonly resistance or baseboard heaters. When it comes to transport roughly 275 million vehicles primarily burning gasoline and diesel operate in the US.

Electrification of building heat and light duty vehicles will entail investments in 1) power generation, 2) distribution and transmission infrastructure, 3) charging infrastructure and 4) consumer side end-use equipment (for example heat pumps and electric vehicles) and 5) installation and modifications costs to adapt the end-use equipment and possibly 6) large-scale HVDC transmission and converter stations.

In this first two-year phase of effort, Quadracci Sustainable Engineering Laboratory (qSEL) envisions a two-year study under the auspices of BE that will focus on “contribution of residential and commercial building loads including changes in loads from electrification of space heating and heating of domestic hot water”. Loads not related to space/DHW can also change with changes in built-up areas, greater adoption of air-conditioning, efficiency improvements in both cooling and non-heating/cooling loads. In the rest if the document electrification of heating and domestic hot water is shortened to eH. Building cooling loads are already electric and here are shortened to eC. Buildings consumer energy for uses beyond eH and eC and these rest of the loads are eR. The goal is to model with reasonable fidelity, the temporal evolution of electric loads from buildings (both residential and commercial) represent at a spatial scale equivalent to the number of nodes being modelled in the BE model.

Amongst these loads, heating is particularly complex as the requirements depend upon weather, the loads can have strong seasonal and possibly diurnal components, load depends upon building area/envelope, and at the same time heating systems- fuel, end-use equipment, the heat distribution systems within the building and how used, how operated are specific to building. This is an essential difference from say electric vehicles where in spite of different eV models the underlying operation is largely similar. The longevity of buildings and heating systems also make them an important early action energy transition opportunity. On the other hand, unlike eV and the associated charging infrastructure which would be new, buildings are already wired to receive electricity and nearly half of the overall energy use within buildings is already electric.

Our overarching goal will be to unpack the complexity first and then progressively built in the complexity in an open, documented fashion, while developing well-defined methods and datasets at a nationwide U.S. scale.