Journal article Open Access

An alternative to market-oriented energy models: Nexus patterns across hierarchical levels

Di Felice, Louisa Jane; Ripa, Maddalena; Giampietro, Mario

From a biophysical perspective, energy is central to the behaviour of social-ecological systems. Its ubiquity means that energy is entangled with nexus elements, including water, land, emissions and labour. At the sciencepolicy interface, large market-oriented energy models dominate as the tool to inform decision-making. The outputs of these models are used to shape policies, but strongly depend on sets of assumptions that are not available for deliberation and gloss over uncertainties. Taking an approach from complexity, we propose an alternative to market-oriented energy models, describing the behaviour of energy systems in relation to patterns of nexus elements across hierarchical levels. Three characteristics are central to the approach: (i) the distinction of the model's building blocks into functional and structural elements; (ii) their hierarchical organisation and (iii) the description of nexus patterns at each level, through the tool of the processor. To illustrate the model, it is applied to Catalonia's energy sector, linking production and consumption patterns. The framework may help inform stakeholder deliberation on pressing energy and nexus issues.

The authors gratefully acknowledge research funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 689669 (MAGIC). The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) has received financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, through the "María de Maeztu" program for Units of Excellence (MDM-2015-0552). This work reflects the authors' view only; the funding agencies are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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