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Press Release | Argonne National Laboratory

Modeling a net-zero future: Energy experts harness simulation for global decarbonization

Scientists and engineers embrace advanced modeling to identify efficient, effective solutions to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050

Discover how cutting-edge modeling and simulation technologies are helping researchers worldwide tackle the urgent goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Scientists and engineers are seizing the latest modeling and simulation technologies as they look for ways to transition our energy systems to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

Energy experts from across the globe tried their hands at different computer modeling tools during the latest workshop held jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Net Zero World Initiative and the International Atomic Energy Agency. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, a partner in the initiative, hosted the hands-on workshop held in August.

Launched at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference — otherwise known as the Conference of the Parties (COP26) — Net Zero World comprises 10 DOE national laboratories, nine U.S. government agencies, philanthropic organizations, think tanks, businesses and universities. The initiative promotes just and resilient net-zero emission energy systems around the world. Argentina, Chile, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Singapore, Thailand and Ukraine have joined the initiative to date.

Climate change is a global challenge that can’t be solved by one laboratory, one institution or one country. The Net Zero World Initiative fosters international cooperation that is critical to reaching decarbonization goals on a global scale.” — Hyekyung Clarisse Kim, Argonne scientist and co-manager of the Net Zero World Initiative’s Technical Program

Tools of transformation yield tailored strategies

Energy modeling uses computer software and mathematical equations to simulate the change of energy systems over time. The technology can be an effective tool for developing energy transition and decarbonization plans. Decarbonization is the process of reducing GHG emissions, such as carbon dioxide, by using low-carbon energy sources and technologies with the goal of reaching net-zero emissions. Net-zero energy systems are typically heavily decarbonized with the remaining GHG emissions counterbalanced by an equal amount of emissions taken out of the atmosphere. This is done using either natural processes or advanced carbon capture and storage technologies.

Because each country is at a different stage of decarbonization and has unique energy needs, resources and challenges, no model offers a one-size-fits all solution, said workshop leader Guenter Conzelmann, an Argonne senior energy and environmental analyst and director of the modeling workshop series.

We help our country partners use the tools and data to develop their own decarbonization pathways, or we might encourage them to be more aggressive with their energy system transformation goals. But they are developing their own pathways to decarbonization. In many cases, experts from each country are bringing their own modelling configurations and U.S. experts are helping them make changes and improvements and create the best path forward,” Conzelmann said.

Annual Net Zero World workshops support ongoing collaborations between members to build on their work accelerating decarbonization goals to reduce planet-warming emissions.

Meeting virtually in April 2022, members learned about the energy system models, tools and methodologies available to help plan energy transition pathways and understand their impacts.

At the 2023 workshop, two dozen participants from ministries and other organizations of 12 countries gathered in person at Argonne to discover and compare various decarbonization paths and technological options using energy system-wide models.

The workshop focused heavily on deepening the one-to-one collaborations in energy system-wide modeling established through the initiative via hands-on joint modeling sessions and discussions. Participants also presented their challenges and priorities and a concluding panel discussion included representatives from the World Bank and DOE national labs.

Learning from each other on the pathway to progress

Among those leading the workshop was Argonne scientist Hyekyung Clarisse Kim, co-manager of the Net Zero World Initiative’s Technical Program.

Through Net Zero World, she said, DOE is mobilizing innovative technology and expertise from its national laboratories to help partnering countries develop clean energy plans.

Climate change is a global challenge that cannot be solved by one laboratory, one institution or one country. The Net Zero World Initiative fosters international cooperation that is critical to reaching decarbonization goals on a global scale,” said Kim. This initiative is also about peer learning. U.S. laboratories and agencies are transferring their knowledge and expertise to other countries, but we are learning from other countries as well.”

Each year, Net Zero World issues a report providing expert analysis and progress on each country’s pathway at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The 2022 report, Preliminary Analysis of Decarbonization Pathways for Five Countries: The Net Zero World Initiative Report Series – 01,” is available online.

The 2023 Net Zero World report will be presented at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28).

Along with Argonne, DOE national labs working on Net Zero World are the National Energy Technology Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Brookhaven, Idaho, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Sandia national laboratories. Net Zero World is a public-private partnership with funding from DOE as well as other government and philanthropic organizations.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.