Simulation models for the design of transition paths towards a sustainable society

This MOOC will help students reach the competences in the use of simulation tools for the evaluation of economy, energy and environment systems, and, specifically, the MEDEAS tools developed in the MEDEAS Horizon project.

Learning Objectives

Climate change and the management of energy resources are two major problems that the global society of the 21st century must tackle urgently. However, the large number of variables and relationships that involve these problems make decision making very complex. This difficulty has resulted in the development of simulation tools called Integrated Assessment Models (IAM), designed to guide decision-making on energy, economy and environment. The main objective of this course is to describe an innovative IAM that has been developed in the MEDEAS project. The MEDEAS project is funded by EU under the framework of the Horizon 2020 program and it forms part of the LCE21-2015 group, together with the projects Reflex, REEEM and SET-Nav.

Content and Modules

The course begins by introducing sustainability problems and simulation tools that are used to guide decision-making on energy, economics and climate change. The following NOOC is oriented to describe the IAM MEDEAS modules, their structure and use. The ultimate goal of the course is to encourage students to use this free tool in order to find the best ways to transition towards a low carbon society.

The MOOC is structured into six topics and each consists of two sessions.

Topic 1. Introduction. Session 1: About the idea of sustainability
The aim of this introductory session is to present some key issues of the global environmental crisis we are facing and the project “Modelling the Energy Development under Environmental and Socioeconomic constraints” (MEDEAS) as a tool to analyse and test public policies, in order to transition towards a low carbon energy system.

Topic 1. Introduction. Session 2: Introduction to Integrated Modelling of Economic-Energy-Environment Scenarios
This session is explains the concept of the Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) and the first general vision of the set of IAMs developed in the European project of the H2020 program: MEDEAS. In addition, other projects that have been developed in the same call are presented, under the topic: “Modelling and Analysing the energy system, its transformation and impacts”.

Topic 2. The MEDEAS Economy Module. Session 1: Theoretical Framework of the MEDEAS’ Economy Module
This session includes a brief description of the theoretical and methodological framework of the MEDEAS Economy Module. The ecological economics approach, whereby the economy is depicted as metabolic process subject to biophysical boundaries, is described. Moreover, the MEDEAS Economy Module main features and situation regarding the current literature are explained.

Topic 2. MEDEAS Economy Module. Session 2: Modelling the MEDEAS’ Economy Module
This session describes the main methodological features of the MEDEAS Economy Module. The general functioning of the macroeconomic model is explained step by step, paying special attention to the integration of Input-Output analysis and System Dynamics modelling. The most important innovation of the Economy Module, i.e. the Energy-Economy feedback, is also described. Finally, some examples of the simulations are shown, highlighting the relevance of energy constraints inclusion to macroeconomic modelling.

Topic 3. Energy. Session 1: Energy resources
This session explains the great importance of energy in the development of our societies and humanity, in general, the current stagnation in non-renewable energy sources production and the peak oil concept, the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) concept and the challenges of renewable energy sources for filling the gap left by the other energy sources.

Topic 3. Energy. Session 2: Energy module implementation
This session describes the main features of the energy module in MEDEAS and explains the modelling of non-renewable energy sources, renewable infrastructures for electricity and heat, as well as different types of bioenergy considered in MEDEAS.

Topic 4. Energy infrastructures and Land-use. Session 1: Materials, Transport and EROI in MEDEAS
This session includes a brief description of the infrastructures needed for a society based on renewable energy in broad terms. It reviews the way in which MEDEAS models the renewable energy infrastructure growth (seen in Topic 3) and describes the modelling of Transportation, mineral use and static and dynamic EROI in MEDEAS.

Topic 4. Energy infrastructures and Land-use. Session 2: Land use in MEDEAS
This session explores the land requirements associated with renewable energy expansion. First, it reviews the problem of land in energy transition. Second, the MEDEAS land-use module is explained describing main characteristics of modelling. Third, examples of the land requirements of energy patterns are presented, too. Finally, different conflicts, due to the increasing land use by the energy system, are shown.

Topic 5. Climate Change. Session 1: Human interference in the climate system and climate modelling in MEDEAS
This session includes a brief description of the biosphere functioning and how human activities are modifying the climate of the Earth. Afterwards, the modelling of climate in MEDEAS is overviewed.

Topic 5. Climate Change. Session 2: Modelling of climate change damages in MEDEAS
This session outlines the main impacts which may be caused by climate change on human and natural systems, overviews the conventional results from business-as-usual scenarios in IAMs, and explains how these are modelled in MEDEAS applying a novel, simple and transparent method in order to be consistent with climate impact assessments.

Topic 6. Running the MEDEAS Model. Policies and Scenarios. Session 1: Introduction to Energy and Climate Change policies and scenarios
This session includes a brief description of the current climate governance framework, deeply conditioned by the set of policies emerging from the Paris Agreement. Besides, the relevance of scenarios modelling is highlighted, and the most known scenarios framework is shortly described: the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs).

Topic 6. Running the MEDEAS Model. Policies and Scenarios. Session 2: Implementing scenarios in MEDEAS
This session shows the process of running a simulation in the MEDEAS model. It begins with files management, then scenarios and policy targets are set and finally, a simulation is run. To finish this last session, there are examples of outcomes from the previously run simulation, according to the scenarios and policies chosen.

Provided ByUNED Abierta
Type of providerHE Institution
Provided atonline
Learning opportunity typeMOOC
Home page
Start date2022-06-09
End date2022-12-20
Workload in hours25
Admission procedureOpen to all
Price detailsFree registration and access to all materials + free open badge + paid certificate of participation (15€/ 40€)
AssessmentsSelf-evaluation tests
Type of credentialCertificate of participation
ISCEDF Code0521 - Environmental sciences
Education subjectEnergy (resources, generation, transport and consumption); Economy (economic sectors, world economy); Sustainable development and climate change; Simulation models and use of computer applications.
Learning settingsnon formal learning
Learning outcomeSimulation models for the design of transition paths towards a sustainable society
Use the simulation tool called Integrated Assessment Models (IAM), in order to find the best ways to transition towards a low carbon society.
Learning outcome typeKnowledges and skills
Assessor typeSelf-evaluation
Assessment formatTest/ Quiz

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