Urban Electrification: Knowledge Pathway Toward an Integrated Research and Development Agenda

20 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2019 Last revised: 10 Sep 2019

See all articles by Patricia Romero Lankao

Patricia Romero Lankao

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Alana Wilson

University of Colorado Boulder

Joshua Sperling

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Clark Miller

Arizona State University (ASU)

Daniel Zimny-Schmitt

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Eric Wood

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Stanley Young

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Matteo Muratori

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Doug Arent

Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis

Mark O’Malley

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Benjamin K. Sovacool

Science Policy Research Unit; Department of Business Technology & Development

Marilyn A. Brown

Georgia Institute of Technology

Frank Southworth

Georgia Institute of Technology

Morgan Bazilian

Colorado School of Mines

Chris Gearhart

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Anni Beukes

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Daniel Zünd

University of Chicago

Date Written: August 20, 2019

Abstract

This white paper is an outcome of a workshop on urban electrification*. It outlines a vision for advancing a research and development (R&D) agenda to thoroughly examine the characteristics and relationships among urbanization, electrification, and cities, including the imperative of shifting renewable sources for electricity. It uses a systems approach to trace current knowledge and identifies knowledge gaps on diverse and not yet connected elements of this emerging field, while calling for a more active collaboration among engineering, and physical and social sciences in the development of an integrated R&D agenda.

Urbanization and electrification are deeply transforming energy systems globally. In the United States and around the globe, cities are engines of development that spatially concentrate the critical human activities and transboundary infrastructures driving and being affected by energy generation, distribution, and use. This spatial concentration creates unique opportunities for electrification to advance multiple economic, social, and environmental goals; at the same time, it alters the distribution of risks and vulnerabilities in complex ways. Because cities are key players in this field, the choices urban actors make about how to implement electrification and achieve energy sustainability, resilience, and innovation will have tremendous implications for the future of electrification, and ultimately the sustainability of our global society.

A significant investment in an innovative and rigorous R&D agenda is needed now to examine how urbanization and electrification interact with each other and with other trends confronting cities. This agenda must include physical, engineering, behavioral, and decision-making sciences to accomplish five overarching goals:

i. Develop innovative and rigorous scientific approaches, including data, models, and tools to examine the multiscale drivers, attributes, and impacts of urban electrification
ii. Design generalizable science accurately representing socio-spatial and temporal differences across and within cities and their countries
iii. Analyze the implications of electrification across multiple sectors for the future of cities and of urbanization using projections, scenarios, and data-driven models
iv. Utilize a systems approach to analyze human behavior and decision making, together with social, economic, technologic, environmental, and governance (SETEG) conditions, defining barriers and enablers, pressures for and against energy transitions, path dependencies, and levers of change.
v. Identify and analyze the outcomes, actions, and options, to maximize potential co-benefits and minimize undesirable trade-offs.

* This paper is an outcome of the workshop on “Urban Electrification” held April 17–18, 2019, sponsored by NREL’s Transportation and Hydrogen Systems Center and the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation of the University of Chicago. Around 30 participants were invited to create a rationale for a research and development (R&D) agenda that more comprehensively focuses on urbanization, electrification and cities. The main goals were to:

i. Analyze the state of the science and gaps in knowledge
ii. Develop R&D that integrates NREL capabilities with the social science methodologies
iii. Create a community of research and practice in this emerging field.

Suggested Citation

Romero Lankao, Patricia and Wilson, Alana and Sperling, Joshua and Miller, Clark and Zimny-Schmitt, Daniel and Bettencourt, Luis and Wood, Eric and Young, Stanley and Muratori, Matteo and Arent, Doug and O’Malley, Mark and Sovacool, Benjamin K. and Brown, Marilyn A. and Southworth, Frank and Bazilian, Morgan and Gearhart, Chris and Beukes, Anni and Zünd, Daniel, Urban Electrification: Knowledge Pathway Toward an Integrated Research and Development Agenda (August 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3440283 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3440283

Patricia Romero Lankao (Contact Author)

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Alana Wilson

University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

Joshua Sperling

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Clark Miller

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

Daniel Zimny-Schmitt

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Eric Wood

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Stanley Young

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Matteo Muratori

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Doug Arent

Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401
United States

Mark O’Malley

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Benjamin K. Sovacool

Science Policy Research Unit ( email )

Falmer, Brighton BN1 9SL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/373957

Department of Business Technology & Development ( email )

Nordre Ringgade 1
Aarhus C, DK-8000
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://pure.au.dk/portal/en/persons/id(fca10105-c4eb-4f0f-99a7-a354a8a8a47a).html

Marilyn A. Brown

Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30332
United States

Frank Southworth

Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30332
United States

Morgan Bazilian

Colorado School of Mines ( email )

Golden, CO 80401
United States

Chris Gearhart

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ( email )

15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-3393
United States

Anni Beukes

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Daniel Zünd

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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