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Research Challenges for a Low Carbon Energy System

Mark O'Malley

Energy systems are transforming, based largely on the drive to decarbonize. Energy system decarbonization can be achieved in many ways including increasing renewable energy, carbon capture, increased nuclear and probably the most effective, reduction in energy use and waste.  An integrated energy systems approach is fundamental for effective decarbonization. The seminar will first introduce the concept of energy systems integration. I will then share aspects of my work on the integration of variable renewable energy into electricity grids to illustrate its central role in decarbonization.  These contributions include insights into variable renewable energy characteristics (i.e. generator technology and resource variability and uncertainty) and the consequential development of new methods for the operation and planning of electricity grids. Contributions to and importance of a systems perspective (e.g. development of system metrics) for the design of appropriate markets and policies will be highlighted.  The advantages of coupling electricity to other energy vectors (e.g. heat) and the electrification of large parts of the economy will be illustrated. Finally, some research challenges will be proposed and the need for collaboration between academia and industry, across disciplines and internationally in overcoming these challenges will be emphasized.

Mark O’Malley is Chief Scientist, Energy Systems Integration at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA.  He is on sabbatical from University College Dublin where he is the Professor of Electrical Engineering. He is a Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Engineering, a member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and has received two Fulbright Fellowships.  He is recognized as a world authority on Energy Systems Integration and in particular grid integration of renewable energy. He works closely and collaboratively with researchers in other disciplines, including economists, social scientists and geologists, and is on the advisory board of the European Platform for Energy Research in the Socio-Economic Nexus.  Most recently, he was the James M. Flaherty Visiting Professor in Electrical Engineering at McGill University where he worked on strategies to decarbonize the combined Eastern Canada and North Eastern US electricity grids.   He has very strong industry collaborations and is the Chair of the Research and Education working group of the Energy Systems Integration Group, a global organization that brings together industry, regulators, policy makers and the research community to further our collective knowledge and understanding in Energy Systems Integration. 

Mark O'Malley Headshot
Mark O'Malley
Energy Systems Integration at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
ECE 105
9 Apr 2019, 10:30am until 12:00pm