Research

Future Energy Systems Center

An industry research consortium providing insights on how best to navigate the energy transition based on multisectoral analyses of emerging technologies, changing policies, and evolving economics.

About the Center

The Future Energy Systems Center examines the accelerating energy transition as emerging technology and policy, demographic trends, and economics reshape the landscape of energy supply and demand. The Center conducts integrated analysis of the energy system, providing insights into the complex multisectoral transformations that will alter the power and transportation systems, industry, and built environment. Our work draws upon MIT research in traditional energy-related disciplines, as well as from cross-disciplinary fields such as energy and environmental policy, climate science, carbon management, energy economics, behavioral science, cybersecurity, information technology, and artificial intelligence. Looking for the Low-Carbon Energy Centers? The Low-Carbon Energy Centers have been integrated into MITEI’s new Future Energy Systems Center, announced in spring 2021 as part of MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade. All existing consortium-based LCEC projects and memberships continue within the Future Energy Systems Center.

How it works

The Future Energy Systems Center serves as a single point of entry into MITEI and the MIT energy research community at large. As a member-supported consortium, the Center continues MITEI’s long history of working with companies throughout the energy sector. Member companies will include both energy suppliers and consumers demonstrating the impact decarbonization will have on a wide range of industries. The Center brings together ongoing technoeconomic and systems-oriented research from MITEI’s Low-Carbon Energy Centers into one unified center, creating a holistic energy system analysis capability with integrated research focus areas. These will initially include electric power, energy storage and low-carbon fuels, transportation, industrial processes, carbon management, and the built environment. Members are invited to participate in all focus area working groups without limit. Our work rests on two pillars: MITEI’s world-class range of capabilities in energy system modeling and analysis; and the cutting-edge campus-wide energy technology research program overseen by MITEI, spanning all of MIT’s departments, as well as our affiliated policy research centers including the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) and the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. Combining our deep knowledge of technology and modeling enables us to investigate the potential for emerging supply and demand-side technologies, along with policy to impact the energy system of the future—exposing new opportunities and threats within a host of industries, as well as unmet research needs.

Benefits

Help shape the Center’s research agenda
Engage with MIT research teams and other industry leaders
Receive timely analysis, including cutting-edge research findings and insights
Participate in monthly seminars addressing emerging technologies, energy policy, and sustainability issues
Attend MITEI’s Annual Research Conference, framing the latest technology, economic and policy drivers shaping the energy landscape
Attend MITEI’s Spring Symposium, offering a deeper understanding of a timely energy transition topic

Projects

Decarbonizing commercial buildings through electrification is critical in order for governments and industry stakeholders worldwide to reach their net zero targets. Over the past decades, a number of cost-effective technologies for electrifying office buildings have come online. However, the adoption of such technologies has been hampered by behavioral barriers and market failures. This project is focused on:
  1. Designing a streamlined and targeted decision-making toolkit for industrial stakeholders (e.g., commercial building owners, energy firms, energy service companies, and utilities) to estimate the cost and benefit of building electrification
  2. Enabling policymakers to evaluate the required size of subsidy and regulatory programs, by providing essential parameters and counterfactual simulations, to enable large-scale electrification adoption in the commercial sector
  3. Generating practical recommendations for strategies that governments and practitioners can adopt to mitigate the primary market failures and increase the net benefit of electrification
Principal investigators: Siqi Zheng, Christopher Knittel
To combat global warming, the electricity sector has to go through a rapid decarbonization to reach a clean power system by mid-century. Expected features of such a system are significantly more wind and solar generation, substantial storage resources, some carbon capture and storage capability, and much deeper coupling between the power grid and other sectors, such as electrified transportation. This project is focused on:
  1. Understanding the potential and limitations of the existing operating methodologies in the new environment of power grids with high penetration of renewables
  2. Developing data-driven stochastic and robust optimization models for real-time dispatch and commitment, and machine learning capabilities for reducing wind and solar generation uncertainty and speed-up of real-time decision-making processes
Principal investigator: Andy Sun
Electric vehicles (EVs) are rapidly gaining attention as sustainable transport solutions in the new era of urban mobility to significantly reduce emissions, improve air quality, combat climate change, and drive economic and innovative growth. In this project, we address the pivotal challenge of optimizing electric vehicle charging stations, a critical component of EV infrastructure. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing an innovative AI-based method for optimizing the charging infrastructure network, estimating charging demand, and managing energy efficiently.
  2. Developing machine learning-based methods to design time-of-use rates to shift electricity usage to off-peak times and to charging locations to minimize overall system costs and wait times.
  3. Evaluating and validating the methods developed for optimizing charging station networks and for time-of-use rate management.
Principal investigators: Chuchu Fan, Yossi Sheffi, Charles Fine, Elenna Dugundji
Low-carbon hydrogen is considered one of the key decarbonization instruments for the energy system. Germany is the largest producer of hydrogen in Europe with a total nominal capacity of 60.8 TWh/yr. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing a detailed multi-nodal model of the future low-carbon hydrogen value chain in Germany including hydrogen production, transmission, storage, and demand
  2. Identifying the minimum cost hydrogen supply chain design for different scenarios and timeframes
  3. Determining the optimal connections of Germany to other regions for importing hydrogen, low-carbon electricity for hydrogen production, and exporting of CO2. This network analysis includes international hydrogen transport options (liquified hydrogen, ammonia, etc.) specifically from Norway, France, and North Africa.
Principal investigator: Emre Gençer
Maritime shipping drives the global economy, carrying over 80% of global trade. With the vast majority of today’s vessels burning fossil fuels, a deliberate and informed transition to low-carbon fuels is needed to decarbonize this critical industry while maintaining a reliable maritime fuel supply chain. A number of alternative fuels have emerged in recent years with potential to decarbonize the sector. This project is focused on:
  1. Building a maritime fleet model to perform techno-economic analysis and lifecycle assessment of alternative fuel pathways for a set of representative vessel types and powertrain technologies.
  2. Creating a global low-carbon fuel supply chain model to evaluate feedstock requirements, as well as costs and timelines needed to build a robust supply chain for each low-carbon fuel considered.
  3. Developing a science-based understanding of theoretical best-case limits for the technologies and processes involved in end use of alternative fuels.
Principal investigators: Elsa Olivetti, Guiyan Zang, Danika MacDonell
Concerns over climate change along with rapidly falling costs of clean energy technologies have led to increased scrutiny over the role of fossil-fuels in a low-carbon energy future. This project is focused on:
  1. Evaluating the role of natural gas-fired power plants (NG) in future electrical grids using an advanced, multi-period capacity expansion modeling framework with perfect foresight
  2. Modeling cost-optimal grid operations, investments, and retirements through 2050 using a detailed representation of the American Southeast’s electrical grid which includes inter-region transmission, variable renewable energy resource characteristics, brownfield capacity and lifetime and economic retirements
  3. Examining several pathways to a highly decarbonized grid, assuming rapid growth in energy demand through mid-century
Principal investigator: Dharik Mallapragada
Hydrogen leakages are inevitable under a global, low-carbon economy fueled by hydrogen-based energy technologies at scale. Atmospheric hydrogen (H2) is considered an “indirect greenhouse gas,” in that increases in atmospheric H2 concentrations lead to increased lifetimes of powerful greenhouse gases – primarily methane.  The concentration of atmospheric H2 is controlled mainly by its consumption by bacteria in the soil. Changes in global soils due to climate and land use/management may reduce H2 consumption in soil, thereby increasing atmospheric H2 and amplifying the indirect climate warming effect of H2 emissions. This project is focused on:
  1. Determining the extent that climate change and land use change may impede the global soils’ consumption of atmospheric hydrogen.
  2. Assessing how increased atmospheric H2 due to reduced soil H2 consumption may increase concentrations and lifetime of methane and other greenhouse gases.
  3. Identifying potential tipping points which could dramatically increase the climate impacts of hydrogen leakage.
Principal investigators: C. Adam Schlosser, Ron Prinn, Sebastian Eastham
Addressing climate change will require decarbonizing industrial processes, which accounted for 26% of global CO2 emissions in 2019. This project is focused on:
  1. Studying alternate low-carbon routes for production of ethylene using a multi-scale analysis approach
  2. Utilizing techno-economic (TEA) and systems analysis to study the cost, scalability and life cycle environmental impact of four alternative decarbonization approaches for ethylene production
  3. Designing and characterizing a new class of active anode materials to enable an emerging decarbonization route via electrochemical oxidative coupling of methane
Principal investigators: Dharik Mallapragada, Elsa Olivetti, Bilge Yildiz
This project is focused on:
  1. Understanding the factors influencing consumer willingness to adopt MaaS as a substitute for private vehicle ownership
  2. Measuring the "option value" of owning a car separately from the utility of using a car in the U.S.
  3. Exploring the system-level attributes of MaaS that will be most important in determining its competitiveness with the private automobile
Principal investigators: David Keith, Joanna Moody
While hydrogen itself is not a greenhouse gas, any leakage of hydrogen used in the energy system has the potential to affect climate because of its atmospheric chemistry. This project is focused on:
  1. Carrying out model calculations to evaluate the Global Warming Potential (GWP) and temperature impacts of potential hydrogen leakage in the current and future atmosphere.
  2. Identify key uncertainties in hydrogen GWPs for long and short timescales.
  3. Evaluate the potential for hydrogen fuel use to contribute to avoiding exceedance of the 1.5 and 2°C thresholds identified by the Paris agreement for various scenarios of usage and leakage.
Principal investigator: Susan Solomon
The capture and transformation of CO2 into useful products is a promising approach towards net-zero emissions with the potential to reshape the global economy. Co-location of the capture and conversion processes within the same operational plant may convey significant benefits by eliminating the need to compress and transport CO2 between the capture location and the conversion location, thereby reducing energy and capital requirements. This project is focused on:
  1. Examining optimal product-CO2 source-geographic location combinations while assessing scalability and costs.
  2. Developing technoeconomic models to estimate the end-to-end cost of carbon capture and conversion including comparison of capture and conversion as separate steps versus integrated capture and conversion (ICC).
  3. Identifying a specific industry, geographical location, and product that provides the most attractive opportunity for co-located capture and conversion.
Principal investigator: Kripa K. Varanasi
Tough-to-decarbonize transportation (aviation, maritime shipping, and heavy-duty trucking) currently emits between 2 and 4 billion metric tons (Gt) of CO2 per year. By 2050, these modes alone might deplete around 25% of the remaining 1.5°C carbon budget. This project is focused on:
  1. Comparing the economy-wide net emissions, systems costs, and abatement costs associated with two alternative Direct Air Capture-based strategies for fueling transportation: a) use of captured CO2 plus green hydrogen to make synthetic fuels, and b) permanently store captured CO2 to offset carbon emissions associated with the continued use of petroleum-derived fuels
  2. Determining under what conditions each Direct Air Capture-based option is cost effective, and how these costs compare to other low-carbon fuel options for transportation
  3. Understanding how the results may be affected by uncertainty in future pathway designs, as well as various policy and market conditions and levels of technology development and scale-up
Principal investigator: Steven Barrett
Long-haul trucking is one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize, but decarbonization of this growing transportation mode is required to meet climate change mitigation goals. Long-haul trucking requires a high energy density energy carrier to provide long driving range without inordinate impact on the freight carrying capacity. This makes electrification and direct use of the hydrogen quite challenging for long-haul trucking. Low-carbon liquid energy carriers are a promising approach for decarbonizing trucking due to their much higher energy densities than is possible with batteries or hydrogen. This project is focused on:
  1. Assessing the life-cycle cost and greenhouse gas emissions of several liquid energy carriers that are candidates for long-haul trucking. These options will include drop-in fuels, methanol, ammonia, and liquid organic hydrogen carriers.
  2. Developing and demonstrating a consistent comparative assessment platform for the cost and emission impact of liquid energy carrier operations
  3. Clarifying issues/challenges associated with each of the liquid fuels options, including some of the interactions with other sectors (e.g. electric grid, aviation, shipping, agriculture & forestry).
Principal investigators: Emre Gençer, William Green
Hydrogen is widely viewed as a vital energy carrier for economy-wide decarbonization. One of the low-carbon pathways for hydrogen production is methane pyrolysis, which converts methane to hydrogen and solid carbon.  To improve the economic viability of this hydrogen pathway, the carbon by-products need to generate revenue. The construction sector may be the largest market for methane pyrolysis by-products. In some cases, incorporating carbon by-products (carbon fibers and nanotubes) into concrete can improve mechanical performance and contribute to lowering the embodied and operational GHGs of buildings and pavements. This project is focused on:
  1. Estimating the potential quantity of carbon by-products that can be accommodated in the US building and pavement sectors.
  2. Calculating how much less construction materials would be required by incorporating carbon by-products to strengthen concrete structures.
  3. Projecting how much energy and emissions can be saved by improving rolling resistance for vehicles traveling on road surfaces improved by the inclusion of carbon fibers and nanotubes.
Principal investigators: Randolph Kirchain, Richard Roth
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is one of the most effective ways to decarbonize hard-to-abate industries like iron, steel, cement, and chemical production. Many of these emissions are generated at significantly higher temperatures (300 to >1400 C) depending on the process. Use of conventional amine systems requires cooling to much lower capture temperature, while molten salts can capture carbon dioxide at elevated temperatures. This project is focused on:
  1. Quantifying the potential of molten salts, as exemplar versatile-temperature capture media, for post-combustion CO2 capture from various industrial flue gas streams and comparing against more mature carbon capture technologies
  2. Examining opportunities for temperature-matching emissions streams with sorbents at similar conditions and with representative emissions properties appropriate to several key industries
  3. Performing techno-economic assessments and comparisons of promising CCS technologies (molten salts, solvents, and adsorbents) for each of five industries (steel, cement, ethylene, aluminum, copper)
Principal investigators: Guiyan Zang, Betar Gallant, T. Alan Hatton
Utilizing the ocean to remove anthropogenic CO2 has profound potential to mitigate climate change, but it faces major challenges. Foremost among these challenges is the trustworthy quantification of CO2 drawdown – commonly referred to as Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) – that is critical to underpin a global carbon market. MRV is particularly demanding due to the vast and dynamic transport nature of the oceans, and thus it is important to monitor in close proximity (near-field) to a marine Carbon Dioxide Removal (mCDR) site. This project is focused on:
  1. Reviewing the near-field physics of a trial coastal mCDR operation and identifying what must be accounted for to achieve trustworthy Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV).
  2. Demonstrating the importance of the near-field to the broader mCDR community by focusing on a particular type of mCDR intervention, called direct ocean capture (DOC).
  3. Developing a program with the MIT Policy Lab to connect with national (e.g. OSTP, NOAA, DOE) and international (e.g. UN, OECD) policymakers and advisors.
Principal investigator: Thomas Peacock
To transition to a carbon neutral building stock by 2050, the annual retrofit rate of less than 1% today will need to increase to 4-5% while all new construction will need to be carbon neutral by 2030. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing a techno-economic adoption model for various building retrofit packages
  2. Calibrating the model based on a combination of historic adoption costs of select technologies including photovoltaics, double pane windows and solid-state lighting, as well as new user surveys
Principal investigator: Christoph Reinhart
Buildings are a major source of carbon emissions. Their decarbonization demands two main actions: electrifying the heating loads to eliminate emissions from gas or oil burning, and implementing energy efficiency measures, particularly, weatherization to reduce the energy consumption. This project is focused on:
  1. Improving MIT's DECARB model by characterizing heat pumps and batteries accurately
  2. Improving the thermal enclosure representation of buildings in the DECARB model
  3. Adding socioeconomic features into the model to compensate the energy transition "losers"—typically, low-income consumers
Principal investigators: Pablo Duenas-Martinez, Karen Tapia-Ahumada
Increased electrification without tapping the potential of demand flexibility would render decarbonization efforts unnecessarily inefficient and expensive and would thus endanger an inclusive energy transition. This project is focused on:
  1. Investigating alternative rate structures that allow the variability in the value of electricity across time to be passed through to customers to provide better incentives to consume electricity efficiently, while limiting the risk associated with excessively high prices
  2. Applying a mix of empirical methods, simulation, and optimization to explore how to appropriately evaluate alternative retail rate designs and determine what type of alternative retail rate designs are suitable in different power system contexts characterized by a supply mix dominated by intermittent generation and varying attributes of demand-side participation
  3. Assessing the fitness of the current regulatory framework to incentivize the adoption of innovative retail rates as well as the general properties of innovative alternatives
Principal investigators: Dharik Mallapragada, Tim Schittekatte, Christopher Knittel, Paul Joskow
Geopolitical unrest and extreme climate events can greatly raise electricity prices. Furthermore, power system decarbonization and the energy transition will lead to increased electricity price volatility, more frequent periods of sustained high prices and the potential for huge energy costs to be passed on to consumers. These can result in affordability issues for a significant share of consumers and competition challenges for industry. The standard objective of power market design and regulation is to organize the power sector as efficiently as possible. At the same time, electricity should be affordable for all citizens, as it is a basic need in our modern society. Thus, to facilitate a financially sustainable, just, and inclusive energy transition, innovative regulatory and policy ideas are needed. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing realistically implementable affordability mechanisms to protect vulnerable tranches of end users while respecting the basic market competition rules and avoiding any distortion of the short-term market price signal
  2. Conducting an in-depth review of current programs and the best international practices on energy poverty with the aim of not only proposing innovative policies to efficiently protect vulnerable customers, but also to enable these customers to actively participate in the energy transition
Principal investigators: Tim Schittekatte, Carlos Batlle, Christopher Knittel
In this research we aim to understand how increasing amounts of solar and wind energy can be integrated into the power system while maintaining energy affordability and reliability. Our project aims to uncover how near-term and medium-term investment decisions regarding capacity expansion in the power system can best be aligned with a longer-term goal of a net-zero-carbon energy system. This project is focused on:
  1. Using a multi-dimensional analysis to identify favorable technology portfolios that represent robust net-zero-carbon solutions under conditions of uncertainty in the evolution of technologies and energy systems.
  2. Investigating the role of energy storage, transmission, demand response, supplemental fuels, and thermal generation in providing firm power and flexibility in zero-carbon power systems
  3. Advancing an approach to expansion modeling that identifies desired levels of detail and abstraction based on sources of uncertainty, research questions of interest, and applications of insights to decision-support.
Principal investigators: Audun Botterud, Jessika Trancik
Over 60% of hiring managers in the U.S. plan to increase the location and schedule flexibility of work arrangements on a permanent basis. This disruption of the status quo and uncertainty about future travel demand creates a need for a more responsive mobility system that adapts to constantly evolving demand patterns. This project is focused on:
  1. Collecting primary data to understand the spatial and temporal changes in travel demand caused by a shift towards the future of work
  2. Developing a planning framework to design a transit-centric multimodal urban mobility system supported by shared mobility
  3. Generating insights into future travel demand evolution and developing the tools needed to support a transition towards sustainable urban mobility
Principal investigator: Jinhua Zhao
A promising geologic carbon sequestration strategy is CO2 mineralization, the conversion of gaseous CO2 into carbonate minerals. Basaltic rocks, because of their widespread occurrence and high reactivity have received great attention as an attractive sequestration approach. However, many challenges to geologic carbon sequestration in basaltic reservoirs remain regarding rock deformation, fluid flow and reaction rates. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing a better understanding of rock deformation of mineralization, and the concomitant volume, stress changes, and reaction rates
  2. Understanding the mechanical properties and pore structure changes that affect both geophysical parameters and fluid flow
  3. Developing and calibrating in a laboratory setting, sensitive monitoring methods for the geophysical and geochemical changes accompanying sequestration
Principal investigator: Matej Pec
Steel production is responsible for more than 2.5 gigatons of carbon emission and is one of the more difficult sectors to decarbonize.  The options for decarbonization differ by resources available in each region and by the quality of the iron ore. This project is focused on:
  1. Identifying the best decarbonization scenarios for steel production in India, U.S., China, Japan, Germany, Turkey, and Brazil
  2. Comparing the cost and emissions of low-carbon scenarios by the combination of BF, SR, DRI, and EAF based on the regional steel production market
  3. Identifying the best practical steel decarbonization scenarios by region based on cost, emissions, and demand
Principal investigators: Emre Gençer, Guiyan Zang
Planning for the long-term evolution of the power system requires consideration of the uncertainty in key technology, economic, and policy drivers. Existing approaches to incorporate uncertainty in power system planning generally rely on formulating scenario-based stochastic programs, which are limited in the number of scenarios and investment stages that can be considered while maintaining computational tractability. This project is focused on:
  1. Exploring new models for investment planning under uncertainty that use linear decision rules to incorporate multiple dimensions of uncertainty in a computationally scalable manner
  2. Demonstrating the value of the proposed multi-stage generation-planning formulation by exploring the collective impact of uncertainty in carbon policies, technology costs, and system demand on near-term investments in generation, networks and storage capacity
Principal investigator: Dharik Mallapragada, Audun Botterund
The potential growth in electricity demand in the building and transportation sectors would put pressure on local, low-voltage power networks causing significant grid operational challenges that will require mitigation measures and a better understanding the role of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). This project is focused on:
  1. Understanding the current landscape towards energy transition in terms of available technologies, business models, and evolving regulation
  2. Understanding the impacts of DERs in electricity distribution networks
  3. Investigating the role of efficient economic signals (cost-reflective electricity tariffs) in driving adoption of DERS and their operation
Principal investigators: Pablo Duenas-Martinez, Karen Tapia-Ahumada
Liquid air energy storage is the only clean and locatable long-duration energy storage technology currently capable of delivering multiple GWh of energy storage. This project is focused on:
  1. Evaluating the potential for widespread adoption of liquid air energy storage systems by performing a techno-economic assessment using a novel non-smooth analysis approach with optimization
  2. Utilizing nonconvex optimization formulations to determine simultaneously the fixed design and operating decisions that maximize the net present value of the liquid air energy storage project over its lifespan
  3. Performing optimizations of results and conducting sensitivity analyses with respect to design and cost parameters to establish a baseline for the technical and economic performance of liquid air energy storage systems, which can inform future research and guide investment decision-making
Principal investigator: Paul Barton
In many countries most long-haul freight is carried by diesel trucks on highways, always with significant CO2 emissions and sometimes with significant particulate and NOx emissions. This project is focused on:
  1. Assessing alternative powertrains and fuels combinations to see which offer significant advantages at reasonable cost
  2. Examining the emissions reduction potential of alternative powertrains and fuels
  3. Understanding the obstacles to deployment of alternative powertrains and fuels
Principal investigator: William Green
Hydrogen production is responsible for about 1% of global CO2 emissions, which predominantly come from steam methane reforming (SMR). To eliminate CO2 emissions, economically competitive approaches to making CO2-free hydrogen are needed. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing an extreme temperature methane pyrolysis process to achieve close to 100% single-pass conversion facilitated by an inert liquid metal (Tin) to avoid solid carbon plugging of the reactor
  2. Developing models of the pyrolysis reactor to better understand the conversion performance and temperature dependence
  3. Assessing the techno-economics and life cycle emissions of this pyrolysis process relative to alternative hydrogen production options
Principal investigators: Paul Barton, Asegun Henry
Large-scale and unforeseen cyber-attacks impacting critical infrastructure are becoming a daily occurrence. A combined presence of both cyber and physical attacks require entirely new tools for analysis of an emerging cyber-physical energy grid that is rich in distributed energy resources including decarbonized variable energy resources. This project is focused on:
  1. Categorizing various cyber physical attacks in terms of types and impact on the energy grid
  2. Increasing the visibility for system operators into the distribution grid by providing them with the situational awareness (SA) about the complete system in real-time
  3. Developing resilience scores for all subsystems in the energy grid for risk assessment
Principal investigators: Anuradha Annaswamy, John Williams
All transportation modes, including driving, walking, and cycling, have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19. Even when the virus is no longer a threat to public health, residual effects may influence activity, destination, and mode choices which in turn will impact transportation sector energy consumption. This project is focused on:
  1. Quantifying the behavioral and preference change in the medium term after COVID-19
  2. Analyzing the change with sociodemographic data, built environment data, and different operational strategies of transportation
  3. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on mobility for different social groups, and what operational strategies, infrastructure and equipment changes may help them recover, and translate the behavioral changes into energy consumption estimates
Principal investigator: Jinhua Zhao
Thermal energy storage (TES) could significantly contribute to decarbonization of energy systems including industrial applications. It is cheap enough to scale to GWh of storage, and a more mature technology than alternative candidates for long duration energy storage. However, operating TES can be more complicated than electrochemical systems such as Li-ion batteries. Our present models of TES in capacity expansion planning tools do not reflect these operational challenges. This project is focused on:
  1. Reviewing the most promising TES technologies including latent and sensible heat storage systems.
  2. Building computationally efficient models and testing a variety of approximations for each technology to understand the trade-off between accuracy and computational cost.
  3. Evaluating how accurate TES models impact the results of two real-world case studies: the Dallas-area electricity grid, and a cluster of Houston-area industrial heat and electricity consumers.
Principal investigators: Ruaridh Macdonald, Guiyan Zang
A promising pathway for decarbonization of heavy-duty transport includes the use of hydrogen directly, or producing synthetic fuels from electricity and/or H2 and captured CO2 streams that can directly substitute for current petroleum-based, hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel. This project is focused on:
  1. Evaluating the system-wide greenhouse (GHG) emissions and cost impacts of pursuing transport decarbonization via different penetration levels of electricity, H2, and synthetic fuels
  2. Expanding energy systems modeling tools on electricity-H2 infrastructure planning to include alternative CO2 supply sources and synthetic fuel production pathways while accounting for their operating and investment costs as well as power system impacts
  3. Applying expanded energy systems modeling tools to investigate pathways for power and transport sector decarbonization for European countries near the North Sea
Principal investigator: Dharik Mallapragada
Mitigation of global warming trends caused by rapid CO2 accumulation in the environment requires carbon dioxide removal. There are potential opportunities for distributed smaller-scale capture units to be placed strategically where high CO2 concentration levels could provide enhanced thermodynamic and kinetic performance, and/or that take advantage of existing and planned infrastructure. This project is focused on:
  1. Assessing the technical feasibility of carbon removal from urban and non-urban environments using distributed capture units, with consideration to logistics of collection and disposal/use of captured CO2, aesthetics, societal acceptance, and policy
  2. Developing a clear picture of the appropriate research and technology development needs, and an assessment of their relative merits, for collecting CO2 from a wide variety of locations (large-scale units, distributed units, off-shore or on-shore ocean water, rivers, lakes, and dams, etc.)
  3. Identifying materials and engineering needs to ensure acceptable capital and operational costs of such systems
Principal investigators: Betar Gallant, T. Alan Hatton
Decarbonization of the transportation sector through a transition to electric and hydrogen vehicles requires adequate infrastructure for electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging and hydrogen fueling. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing a novel energy distribution optimization tool (OP-EVH2) for local planning of EV fast-charging and hydrogen fueling stations to study the impact of investments on local electricity distribution networks
  2. Investigating the role of distributed energy resources such as solar PV, energy storage, and electrolyzers in decreasing the burden on the electricity distribution system
  3. Developing a planning and operation optimization framework accounting for the local electricity and hydrogen demands from the transportation sector, local renewables and energy storage investments, and on-site hydrogen production
Principal investigator: Audun Botterud
As both the electric power system and the transportation system decarbonize, their interdependence will increase dramatically. If managed well, this interdependency could also be a huge asset for helping enhance the resiliency of the two systems. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing comprehensive optimization models for the joint planning and operation of the electric grid and electrified public transit systems to improve their resiliency and adaptability to severe weather events.
  2. Studying the welfare and fairness impacts of the electrification of public transit system on different communities.
  3. Studying how renewable resources, advanced battery storage technologies, and V2G could be used to support the growth of electric transportation systems and their resiliency.
Principal investigator: Andy Sun
Hydrogen has the potential to play a central role in a future low-carbon energy system. However, realizing its full potential will require annual production of hydrogen at the gigaton scale, orders of magnitude higher than current production levels. This project is focused on:
  1. Benchmarking the costs and life cycle emissions of hydrogen production via natural gas autothermal reforming (ATR) with carbon capture
  2. Performing techno-economic analysis of three types of existing electrolysis technologies (PEM, Alkaline, Solid-Oxide) and two emerging electrolysis approaches (anion exchange membranes (AEM) and intermediate temperature)
  3. Investigating the potential of intermediate temperature (200 to 500 °C) electrolysis technologies using nano-composite gel electrolytes
Principal investigators: Dharik Mallapragada, Yogesh Surendranath
In transitioning toward a low-carbon transportation system, refueling infrastructure is crucial for the viability of alternative fuel vehicles but requires significant government and private investment. This project is focused on:
  1. Conducting research on travel patterns, electric vehicle charging demand, and electric vehicle adoption to develop a model of consumer vehicle and travel choices
  2. Utilizing the data to look for evidence of complementarity spillovers across space in refueling, which is the idea that one location may be more valuable to the rest of the refueling network than its own profits
  3. Simulating the profits of electric vehicle charging networks as well as adoption rates of electric vehicles with different pricing and location strategies of charging networks
Principal investigator: Jing Li
Recent work has shown that introducing 5-10% of actuated vehicles (e.g. autonomous vehicles (AVs)) can significantly alleviate congestion in idealized traffic scenarios. Teaching human drivers congestion-mitigation techniques, which are currently implementable by AVs, can have significant beneficial impact. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing a machine learning approach for designing driver guidance to enable improvements in congestion
  2. Studying the approaches, capabilities and implementation trade-offs using numerical experiments to derive theoretical performance guarantees, and perform a region-specific cost-benefit analysis
  3. Creating a personalized app that will provide drivers with basic suggestions to help modify their driving in real-time to improve congestion at scale and in resource-constrained contexts
Principal investigator: Cathy Wu
Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels is one of the major ways to decarbonize transportation. This project is focused on:
  1. Assessing the scalability of biomass availability from dedicated land use and from waste and residues, and evaluating global and regional transportation demands, with a particular focus on aviation and shipping
  2. Quantifying the tradeoffs for biomass supply and demand, utilizing and enhancing the global multi-region multi-sector economy-wide MIT Economic Projection and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model, considering many complex physical and socio-economic relationships and feedbacks
  3. Developing an understanding of the opportunities for biomass feedstocks for fuels, chemicals, and other uses and assessing different sectors of the economy where biomass use will generate the highest value in terms of accelerating the energy transition
Principal investigators: Sergey Paltsev, Kristala Prather
There is growing interest among policymakers, regulators and utilities to expand electrification to an increasing number of end-use sectors as a way to meet long-term economy-wide decarbonization goals. Electrification effectively shifts the burden of emission reductions to the power sector, where the availability of multiple zero-carbon generation and storage technologies lowers barriers to decarbonization. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing scalable decision-support frameworks for joint infrastructure planning with adequate representation of temporal and spatial variability in cross-sectoral interactions in order to understand the merits of electrification of various end-uses
  2. Developing extensions to power system capacity expansion models (e.g. GenX) to include possible investment in alternative energy vectors for decarbonizing difficult-to-electrify sectors
  3. Examining modeling interactions between electricity and gas infrastructure and the possibility of retrofitting existing gas infrastructure to be compatible with hydrogen use
Principal investigator: Dharik Mallapragada
Grid operators are tasked with ensuring that there are enough generation and storage assets available and that these assets are optimally utilized to ensure resource adequacy to meet electricity demand. A key concern for grid operators regarding energy storage assets is their ability to contribute to resource adequacy, especially in anticipation of stressed events. Storage assets’ state of charge at any time is a function of how they are utilized, and therefore, storage assets are distinctly different from generation assets. Thus, capacity market rules must incentivize storage investment and operation to match the system’s resource adequacy needs. This project is focused on:
  1. Determining what is the optimal system utilization and investment in storage assets, and how this optimum varies with uncertainty.
  2. Assessing how competitive, profit-maximizing owners make investment and operating decisions regarding storage assets.
  3. Exploring what energy reserve market design can incentivize the optimal utilization and investment in storage assets.
Principal investigator: John Parsons
As the world transitions to a low-carbon economy, the importance of low-carbon fuels in achieving this energy transition is increasingly evident.  The potential role of ammonia as an energy and hydrogen carrier is gaining prominence in global decarbonization discourse. Ammonia’s ability to be easily transported and stored in liquid form presents a significant advantage over hydrogen, making it a new focus in hydrogen decarbonization strategies. This project is focused on:
  1. Examining what the future global ammonia supply chain will look like if optimized based on costs and emissions.
  2. Collecting regional data regarding availability of energy sources for ammonia production and projected hydrogen and ammonia demand.
  3. Developing a framework for optimization of the global ammonia supply chain in the years 2030 and 2050 to represent short-term and long-term scenarios.
Principal investigators: Guiyan Zang, Daniel Cohn, Leslie Bromberg, Ruaridh Macdonald
Use of electrification in space heating of buildings is attractive as it eliminates distributed sources of CO2 emissions, has associated efficiency benefits, leverages existing infrastructure and could provide a potentially flexible demand-side resource to support variable renewable energy (VRE) integration. However, it could also introduce significant seasonal fluctuations in electricity demand, lead to winter peaking electricity systems in cold climate regions like the U.S. Northeast and increase the complexity of planning low-carbon grids of the future, which are also resilient to extreme weather events. This project is focused on:
  1. Understanding demand-side impacts of heat electrification under various technology adoption scenarios at sufficiently granular spatial and temporal resolution to support decision-making.
  2. Assessing distribution network operation and planning to quantify levels of beneficial electrification achievable across typical feeder architectures under a range of technology and policy scenarios, spanning alternative retail tariff design and DER deployment.
  3. Exploring the bulk energy system impacts of heating electrification vs. the use of other approaches, such as use of hydrogen produced from electricity or other low-carbon fuels, that is subsequently distributed via the existing gas infrastructure. Specific attention is on understanding system resiliency and its implication on cost of alternative decarbonization pathways.
Principal investigators: Christopher Knittel, Dharik Mallapragada
Solid-state batteries are considered the next-generation batteries for energy storage application. They have several advantages over liquid-electrolyte batteries: higher energy density, lower safety risk, and better design flexibility. There are various options of electrolytes, anodes, and designs for solid-state batteries. Currently, the development of solid-state batteries is preparing for large-scale applications. At this point, understanding the economic and emission features of different technologies is critical for future large-scale deployment. This project is focused on:
  1. Building a universal framework that can be used to compare cost and emissions for major solid-state battery technology options including multiple electrolyte and anode synthesis routes.
  2. Comparing the detailed features of full-solid-state and semi-solid-state batteries and implications for cost and emissions.
  3. Providing material, energy, cost, and emissions footprint for each solid-state battery technology.
Principal investigators: Sili Deng, Jianan Zhang, Guiyan Zang
Cogeneration facilities in the U.S. currently total 80 GW of electrical generation capacity. Also known as combined heat and power, or CHP, cogeneration had long been encouraged for its substantial improvements in energy utilization and thereby its contribution to reducing carbon emissions. In addition, cogeneration is often co-located with substantial power loads, which can improve grid performance, and cogeneration can anchor microgrids which helps provide resilience. However, almost all cogeneration capacity in the U.S. is fossil fired. As the goal for emission reductions tightens, and states chart pathways to net zero emissions, merely improving the efficiency in fossil fuel consumption is no longer adequate. Nuclear generation offers a low-carbon option for cogeneration. The new generation of small modular reactors (SMRs) offers a range of sizes and thermal capabilities that may be well suited to the diverse cogeneration market. This project is focused on:
  1. Developing a site-specific optimization model of electric generation and heating equipment to meet the owner’s heat and electricity needs.
  2. Applying MIT’s GenX capacity expansion and dispatch model, including a heat/cogeneration module, to evaluate how incorporating cogeneration at sites on the grid lowers total system cost and examine the feedback from the system analysis to the individual site optimization.
  3. Integrating these results with MIT’s Nuclear Cost Estimation Tool (NCET) code to develop cost targets at which SMRs can be competitive providing cogeneration.
Principal investigators: John Parsons, Jacopo Buongiorno, Koroush Shirvan
There is an imminent need for fast automatic control during faults and reconfigurations as electric power grids accommodate higher penetration of renewables.  This need is driven by the wide-area fast electromagnetic transient (EMT) instabilities created by inadequate inverter control of interactions between different components. Today’s approaches of derating capacity limits and forcing fast protection for service interruptions result in an overall under-utilization of grid capacity and renewables, and yet still do not eliminate EMT problems for the operating ranges of interest. This project is focused on:
  1. Demonstrating typical EMT problems caused by the current control induced system stability.
  2. Performing state-of-the-art droop control-based analysis of systems showing the ability of our multi-layered simulator to model and analyze EMT dynamical problems.
  3. Demonstrating the potential improvements of system response to faults and reconfigurations with the proposed unified inverter control framework.
Principal investigator: Marija Ilić
Green hydrogen is pivotal for the decarbonization of various industries. To expand the access of green hydrogen to end-uses such as passenger vehicles, maritime operations, and building heating, it is important to leverage existing natural gas distribution infrastructure; however, existing natural gas infrastructure cannot be used for hydrogen transport because the carbon-based steels used to make these pipelines are prone to embrittlement. This project is focused on:
  1. Evaluating separation technologies tailored for diverse end-use applications.
  2. Assessing the progress made by emerging materials in carrying out these separation technologies both economically and efficiently.
  3. Providing a direction for future innovation in separation systems to unlock hydrogen end-use applications.
Principal investigator: Zachary Smith
Hydrogen is expected to gain increasing importance as a carbon-free energy vector despite current challenges in scaling its storage and transporting it. This project is focused on:
  1. Comparing mass and energy conversion efficiency of six hydrogen carriers with liquid hydrogen from a cradle-to-grave boundary
  2. Conducting techno-economic analysis (TEA) and life cycle analysis (LCA) on the six hydrogen carriers to compare their cost, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and criteria air pollutants (CAP)
  3. Developing a framework to find the best options for long-distance hydrogen distribution and storage, which produces hydrogen in Australia and supplies in Japan
Principal investigator: Guiyan Zang

People

Florian Allroggen Research Scientist Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Anuradha Annaswamy Senior Research Scientist Department of Mechanical Engineering

Steven Barrett Associate Department Head and Professor Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Audun Botterud Principal Research Scientist Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems

Fikile Brushett Associate Professor Department of Chemical Engineering

Randall Field Executive Director, Future Energy Systems Center MIT Energy Initiative

Betar Gallant Associate Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering

Emre Gençer Principal Research Scientist MIT Energy Initiative

William Green Professor Department of Chemical Engineering

Bradford Hager Professor Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

T. Alan Hatton Professor Department of Chemical Engineering

Howard Herzog Senior Research Engineer MIT Energy Initiative

Christopher Knittel Deputy Director of Policy and Professor MIT Energy Initiative; Sloan School of Management

Dharik Mallapragada Visiting Scientist MIT Energy Initiative

Raanan Miller Former Program Manager, Future Energy Systems Center MIT Energy Initiative

Caitlin Mueller Associate Professor Department of Architecture

Elsa Olivetti Associate Professor Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Sergey Paltsev Senior Research Scientist MIT Energy Initiative

John Parsons Senior Lecturer Sloan School of Management

Desiree Plata Associate Professor Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Kristala Prather Professor Department of Chemical Engineering

Christoph Reinhart Professor Department of Architecture

Yang Shao-Horn Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering

Robert Stoner Director MIT Energy Initiative

Andy Sun Associate Professor Sloan School of Management

Yogesh Surendranath Associate Professor Department of Chemistry

Bilge Yildiz Professor Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering

Jinhua Zhao Professor of Cities and Transportation and Founder, MIT Mobility Initiative Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Current members

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