SESITSustainable Energy Systems Integration & Transitions Group
Our energy systems are transforming rapidly: new technologies are being developed, the economics of energy resources is shifting, and national and international policy goals are changing priorities.
These trends go beyond the fuel shifts observed historically, from biomass to coal to oil to natural gas; together they represent a wholesale transition to a sustainable energy system.
Innovative modelling techniques combined with stakeholder engagement can help guide our decision-making during this transition.
The Sustainable Energy Systems Integration & Transitions (SESIT) Group develops and applies models to understand the sustainable energy system transition. Research questions include:
How should the rise of the grid edge be leveraged?
What are the most promising climate mitigation solutions considering a broad spatial-temporal scale?
How can energy systems integration – coordinating energy systems operation and planning across multiple pathways and scales - unlock flexibility?
Click on any of our projects or publications below for more details.
How does taking a spatially and temporally broad perspective change our energy system transition priorities?
The suite of energy modelling platforms that have been integral to energy systems research is siloed into operational versus planning perspectives.
This approach falls short when representing the rising importance of divergent dimensions.
On the one hand, variable renewable energy resources exhibit distinct spatial and temporal characteristics, necessitating a resolved representation beyond that demanded by conventional generators.
On the other hand, sustainable design requires a broad perspective that encompasses multiple aspects, from greenhouse gas emissions and water resource management to the local economy and foreign policy.
As such, understanding the sustainable energy transition requires extending the models that represent the energy system, with both increased spatial-temporal resolution and scale.
How can integrating solutions across energy vectors and infrastructure systems unlock flexibility?
The integration of energy system vectors – fuels, electricity, and thermal – as well as infrastructure systems - transport, power, and water – promises to unlock flexibility, reliability, and efficiency opportunities.
Specific technology advancements and regulatory frameworks will dictate whether this increased interconnection helps or hinders the energy system transition.
This research project will develop a multi-vector and multi-sector module, to understand key design decisions, regulatory options, market structures, and business modules.
How can the rise of the grid edge be leveraged to design a reliable and resilient system?
The rise of the grid edge, as enabled by decentralized generation, storage, and control technologies is a significant shift in the transactional order of our energy systems.
While offering a range of entrepreneurial and innovation opportunities, this trend also demands a novel approach to characterize the behaviour of actors at the grid edge.
Transactions within the electricity system thus far have been linear, unidirectional, and hierarchical, with clear distinctions between providers, operators, distributors, and consumers.
The rise of the grid edge, which encompasses local generation and storage, direct peer-to-peer transactions, and decentralized control are shifting the energy landscape from a coordinated, top-down hierarchy to an ecosystem of diverse, networked actors.
The distinct roles that have historically characterized the organization of our energy system are becoming blurred.
This shift necessitates new strategies that ensure equitable access to electricity and maintain grid reliability and resilience.
What are the least-cost options for Canada's sustainable energy system transition?
This collaborative project with the
David Suzuki Foundation and
Dr. Brett Dolter
will build a credible renewable energy blueprint to achieve Canada’s Paris commitment and Pan-Canadian Framework goals.
To do so, this project will implement a two-step modelling methodology to leverage the spatial breadth of the CREST model as well as the temporal resolution of the SILVER model.
The capacity expansion model, CREST, which takes a broad spatial and temporal perspective on the energy system transition will be used to facilitate a National dialogue on electricity system planning.
The production cost model, SILVER, which represents the electricity system with greater temporal resolution, will validate the operability of potential energy system designs.
What are the most feasible pathways for decarbonization in Regina?
Cities offer a tractable opportunity for renewable-based climate mitigation but face distinct challenges depending on their local economy, resources, and political climate.
In sub-Saharan Africa where 65% of the population lacks access to electricity, novel solutions that do not depend on centralized infrastructure are necessary to facilitate electricity access for the bottom billion.
In North America, over 50 cities are sidestepping provincial and federal climate policy gridlock by developing renewable city commitments.
In this collaborative project with the
David Suzuki Foundation and
Dr. Brett Dolter
we will explore the pathways for moving Regina to a 100% renewable city.
How do wind and solar resource characteristics impact operations and planning?
As wind and solar energy resources comprise an increasingly large fraction of generation, a greater understanding of VRE spatial-temporal nature is desirable for resource characterizations, grid integration analyses, and project development planning.
However, freely available VRE datasets either have limited temporal resolution or spatial coverage.
While commercial datasets provide improved resolution, they are costly for preliminary analyses or research applications.
This project closed this gap by publishing a free web-based tool for downloading hourly, global wind and solar PV generation time series, called GRETA (Global Renewable Energy Atlas & Time-series).
Fostering a dialogue between energy system policy-makers and modellers
In collaboration with Polytechnique Montréal and the Institut de l'énergie Trottier, we launched the Energy Modelling Initiative (EMI) with the goal of convening a dialogue between Canada’s electricity and energy system modelling community and policy-makers. Recognizing the need to establish an energy systems modelling network, Natural Resources Canada funded several EMI initiatives, including regional workshops, a national workshop, and a series of modelling projects. The three regional workshops brought together energy system modellers and policy-makers in the western, eastern, and central parts of Canada to foster synergies and collaborations while identifying modelling activities needed to inform policy-making. Ten modelling projects, across a range of aspects of modelling and electrification topics have been funded. Our National Forum in December 2019 will build on the projects and regional workshops to develop the first Canadian modellers' vision for 2030-2050.
Planning for variable renewable energy and electric vehicle integration under varying degrees of decentralisation: a case study in Lusaka, Zambia
McPherson, M., Ismail, M., Hoornweg, D., Metcalfe, M.
Energy 151: 332-346 (2018)
Effective electric vehicle integration policy depends on power system centralization;
Decentralized solar energy utility depends on shape or shiftablibility of load;
Electricity system planning must account for the electric vehicle charging policy;
Less than 30% renewables are operationally feasible regardless of system centralization;
System-optimized vehicle-to-grid charging substitutes large storage requirements.
The role of electricity storage and hydrogen technologies in enabling global low-carbon energy transitions
McPherson, M., Johnson, N., Strubegger, M.
Applied Energy 216: 649-661 (2018)
Without climate policy, small storage/H2 costs enable smaller power sector emissions;
With climate policy, small storage/H2 costs reduce long-term mitigation costs;
Large-scale deployment of electricity storage only occurs when costs are small;
With large storage/H2 costs, large wind and solar PV shares can still be supported.
Deploying storage assets to facilitate variable renewable energy integration: the impacts of grid flexibility, renewable penetration, and market structure
McPherson, M., Tahseen, S.
Energy 145: 856-870 (2018)
Storage market and grid integration is explored with a production cost model;
Alternative storage asset bid strategies and ownership structures are compared;
Storage utility depends on variable renewable penetration and system inflexibility;
Storage profitability depends on bidding mechanism and dispatch horizon.
System design and operation for integrating variable renewable energy resources through a comprehensive characterisation framework
McPherson, M., Harvey, D., Karney, B.
Renewable Energy 113: 1019-1032 (2017)
Development of VRE characterization metrics according to integration requirements;
Application of charcaterization metrics in a unit commitment dispatch model;
Evaluation of VRE resources according to integration requirements;
Flexiblity and strategic resource aggregation minimizes integration requirements.
A scenario-based approach to designing electricity grids with high variable renewable energy penetrations in Ontario, Canada: development and application of the SILVER Model
McPherson, M., Karney, B.
Energy 138: 185-196 (2017)
A new scenario-based production cost model entitled SILVER is proposed;
Flexibility requirements for a 100% renewable electricity system are quantified;
Distinct remuneration structures drive demand response and storage deployment;
System flexibility and market design interdependence motivates integrated planning.
An open-access web-based tool to access global, hourly wind and solar PV generation time-series derived from the MERRA reanalysis dataset
McPherson, M., Sotiropoulos-Michalakakos, T., Harvey, D., Karney, B.
Energies 10: 1007 (2017)
The Global Renewable Energy Atlas & Time-series (GRETA) web platform is introduced;
GRETA produces hourly wind and solar PV generation time series globally;
GRETA is a freely website platform available at http://energy.utoronto.ca/GRETA;
GRETA can facilitate a wide variety of renewable energy assessments.
A reduced-form approach for representing the impacts of wind and solar PV deployment on the structure and operation of the electricity system
Johnson, N., Strubegger, M., McPherson, M., Parkinson, S., Krey, V., Sullivan, P.
Energy Economics 64: 651-664 (2017)
VRE integration challenges can be parameterized using residual load duration curves;
These challenges can be represented in global integrated assessment models;
Integration challenges do not impede large shares of electricity generation from VRE;
Electricity storage and H2 technologies are crucial for integrating large VRE shares.
Long-term scenario alternatives and their implications: LEAP mode application of Panama’s electricity sector
McPherson, M., Karney, B.
Energy Policy 68: 146-157 (2014)
This paper models Panama׳s electricity sector using the LEAP model platform;
Four scenarios are developed and analyzed;
Impact analysis includes: system cost, global warming potential, resource diversity index;
Panama can achieve a sustainable grid with existing technologies and costs;
There is an tradeoff between the resource diversity and global warming potential.
Dr. Madeleine McPherson is an Assistant Professor in the Civil Engineering department at the University of Victoria and principal investigator of the Sustainable Energy Systems Integration & Transitions Group. Previously, McPherson worked as a Post-Doctoral researcher in the Grid Systems Analysis group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. McPherson obtained her PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2017. Her research focuses on integrating high penetrations of wind and solar PV onto electricity systems around the world. She has explored questions ranging from the impact of renewable resource characteristics on integration strategies, storage assets remuneration and integration in electricity system markets, and the interaction between electric vehicle charging profiles and grid decentralization. More recently, McPherson has developed and applied a methodology for exploring the role of demand response for facilitating increasing renewable penetrations. McPherson is the lead-author on numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, reports, and presentations. Currently, McPherson is developing an integrated modelling framework to explore the sustainable energy transition in Canada.
Dr. Taimoor Akhtar
Dr. Taimoor Akhtar is an interdisciplinary research scientist, interested in designing optimization algorithms and data-driven decision frameworks for complex and computationally expensive energy and water systems management problems. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental and Water Resources Systems Engineering from Cornell University, and is currently a research fellow at University of Guelph. Taimoor has more than 10 years of academic and consulting experience in systems modeling, environmental engineering and multi-criteria optimization, and has worked in numerous different countries, cultures and environments.
Holding an M.Sc in energy systems engineering and having a background in integrated assessment modeling, optimization and energy systems analysis. Being a SESIT member and working on M3 Modeling project, enables me reach my goals on the way to expand my knowledge in newly emerging modeling and optimization methodologies, such as machine learning and data science.
Reza Arjmand is a PhD student in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Victoria. His doctoral research focuses on creating power system scenarios in order to channel Canada's electricity system into a clean system with no carbon emission. After obtaining his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in electrical engineering at Shahrood University of Technology, Shahrood, Iran, he worked as an operation expert for more than 2 years. A substantial portion of his work at the graduate level has involved researching on the impact of renewable energy sources uncertainty on power market outcomes. Novel results extracted from his researches have been published in high impact international journals (Applied energy and Renewable Energy journals). His research interests center around the power system operation and planning studies, classic and heuristic optimization of power system problems, Renewable energy integration into the grid and deregulation in power industry studies.
Mohammadali Saffari received the M.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering (Management, Control and Navigation of Power Systems) from Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran. During his M.Sc. program, he worked on Optimal Bidding Strategy of an Active Microgrid for Participating in Wholesale Electricity Market. Apart from the academic environment, he was a researcher at Niroo Research Institute (NRI) and working on multiple industrial projects. He was with the Center for the Development of Bulk Power Transmission Systems, NRI, where he firstly worked on investigating the strategy of using bulk power transmission technology in the electrical connection of Iran's grid to its neighboring countries. Afterward, he worked on calculating optimal range of loss in Iran’s distribution system based on inherent features of network. Mohammadali’s research interest lies at power systems optimization, microgrids, demand response programs, energy management, and flexibility in the power system.
Richard Hendriks has degrees in Civil Engineering and in Science from McMaster University, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. For the past two decades, he has been engaged in the planning, environmental assessment, economic evaluation and Indigenous consultation and negotiations related to several large-scale hydroelectric and mining projects across Canada. He has provided testimony before environmental assessment review panels, utility boards, government regulators and independent tribunals concerning the environmental effects, economic viability, and implications for Indigenous rights of these hydroelectric developments. Richard’s current Ph.D. research concerns the potential for hydroelectric redevelopment and pumped storage hydroelectric to contribute to Canada’s needs for low-carbon electrical capacity and energy storage.
Madeleine completed her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering with a Minor in Sustainability from McMaster University. Her interest areas include climate change mitigation and sustainable urban development. She served as a Civil Engineering Ambassador for two years, as well as a teaching assistant for a third-year engineering economics course and a first-year sustainability course. Outside of the classroom, she’s worked in industry as a water treatment operator and as a construction inspector on linear infrastructure and water resource projects
I grew up in Alberta, and am a recent graduate from the University of Alberta in Civil Engineering. For a long time I have wanted to work in sustainability and contribute to a greener society, and joining this project with Dr. McPherson was the perfect opportunity. I have previous research experience working with transportation network modelling which I hope to apply to this project. I am looking forward to making the world a cleaner place to live while being on the beautiful west coast!
Lauren is originally from the US and graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, CA with a Bachelor's degree in mathematics. After graduation, she spent a year working as a researcher on two chemical modeling projects with applications in renewable energy and materials. First, at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, she used COMSOL to model the performance of an electrolyzer, which uses an electrochemical reaction to split water and produce hydrogen without any pollutant byproducts. Then, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, she worked on a machine learning project to facilitate the discovery of new polymers with desirable properties. At UVic, Lauren joined the SESIT team so that she could use her modeling and coding skills to explore energy-related issues from a higher-level perspective. She will be working on both the modeling of buildings, and model integration.
Are you interested in joining the team?
SESIT is part of the Insitute for Integrated Energy Systems (IESVic), a multi-disciplinary and collaborative research centre at the University of Victoria. IESVic alumni end up all over the world as professors, consultants, entrepreneurs, managers, and engineers. Check out where our alumni are now.
We are recruiting enthusiastic and talented student researchers at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoc levels.
SESIT strives to be a diverse and inclusive group that is a source of strength for its students and fellows. We courage applications and partnerships from underrepresented groups including women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities, and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity. We acknowledge with respect the Lekwungen peoples on whose traditional territory the university stands and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.