Energy system

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Physical components of a generic energy system supplying fuels and electricity (but not district heat) to end-users

An energy system is a system primarily designed to supply energy-services to end-users.[1]:941 Taking a structural viewpoint, the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report defines an energy system as "all components related to the production, conversion, delivery, and use of energy".[2]:1261 The field of energy economics includes energy markets and treats an energy system as the technical and economic systems that satisfy consumer demand for energy in the forms of heat, fuels, and electricity.[1]:941

The first two definitions allow for demand-side measures, including daylighting, retrofitted building insulation, and passive solar building design, as well as socio-economic factors, such as aspects of energy demand management and even telecommuting, while the third does not. Neither does the third account for the informal economy in traditional biomass that is significant in many developing countries.[3]

The analysis of energy systems thus spans the disciplines of engineering and economics.[4]:1 Merging ideas from both areas to form a coherent description, particularly where macroeconomic dynamics are involved, is challenging.[5][6]

The concept of an energy system is evolving as new regulations, technologies, and practices enter into service – for example, emissions trading, the development of smart grids, and the greater use of energy demand management, respectively.


From a structural perspective, an energy system is like any general system and is made up of a set of interacting component parts, located within an environment.[7] These components derive from ideas found in engineering and economics. Taking a process view, an energy system "consists of an integrated set of technical and economic activities operating within a complex societal framework".[4]:423 The identification of the components and behaviors of an energy system depends on the circumstances, the purpose of the analysis, and the questions under investigation. The concept of an energy system is therefore an abstraction which usually precedes some form of computer-based investigation, such as the construction and use of a suitable energy model.[8]

Viewed in engineering terms, an energy system lends itself to representation as a flow network: the vertices map to engineering components like power stations and pipelines and the edges map to the interfaces between these components. This approach allows collections of similar or adjacent components to be aggregated and treated as one to simplify the model. Once described thus, flow network algorithms, such as minimum cost flow, may be applied.[9] The components themselves can be treated as simple dynamical systems in their own right.[1]

Conversely, relatively pure economic modeling may adopt a sectorial approach with only limited engineering detail present. The sector and sub-sector categories published by the International Energy Agency are often used as a basis for this analysis. A 2009 study of the UK residential energy sector contrasts the use of the technology-rich Markal model with several UK sectoral housing stock models.[10]

International energy statistics are typically broken down by carrier, sector and sub-sector, and country.[11] Energy carriers (aka energy products) are further classified as primary energy and secondary (or intermediate) energy and sometimes final (or end-use) energy. Published energy datasets are normally adjusted so that they are internally consistent, meaning that all energy stocks and flows must balance. The IEA regularly publishes energy statistics and energy balances with varying levels of detail and cost and also offers mid-term projections based on this data.[12][13] The notion of an energy carrier, as used in energy economics, is distinct and different from the definition of energy used in physics.

Energy systems can range in scope, from local, municipal, national, and regional, to global, depending on issues under investigation. Researchers may or may not include demand side measures within their definition of an energy system. The IPCC does so, for instance, but covers these measures in separate chapters on transport, buildings, industry, and agriculture.[a][2]:1261[14]:516

Household consumption and investment decisions may also be included within the ambit of an energy system. Such considerations are not common because consumer behavior is difficult to characterize, but the trend is to include human factors in models. Household decision-taking may be represented using techniques from bounded rationality and agent-based behavior.[15] The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) specifically advocates that "more attention should be paid to incorporating behavioral considerations other than price- and income-driven behavior into economic models [of the energy system]".[16]:6


The concept of an energy-service is central, particularly when defining the purpose of an energy system:

It is important to realize that the use of energy is no end in itself but is always directed to satisfy human needs and desires. Energy services are the ends for which the energy system provides the means.[1]:941

Energy-services can be defined as amenities that are either furnished through energy consumption or could have been thus supplied.[17]:2 More explicitly:

Demand should, where possible, be defined in terms of energy-service provision, as characterized by an appropriate intensity[b] – for example, air temperature in the case of space-heating or lux levels for illuminance. This approach facilitates a much greater set of potential responses to the question of supply, including the use of energetically-passive techniques – for instance, retrofitted insulation and daylighting.[18]:156

A consideration of energy-services per capita and how such services contribute to human welfare and individual quality of life is paramount to the debate on sustainable energy. People living in poor regions with low levels of energy-services consumption would clearly benefit from greater consumption, but the same is not generally true for those with high levels of consumption.[19]

The notion of energy-services has given rise to energy-service companies (ESCo) who contract to provide energy-services to a client for an extended period. The ESCo is then free to choose the best means to do so, including investments in the thermal performance and HVAC equipment of the buildings in question.[20]

ISO 13600, 13601, 13602 on technical energy systems[edit]

ISO 13600, ISO 13601, and ISO 13602 form a set of international standards covering technical energy systems (TES).[21][22][23][24] Although withdrawn prior to 2016, these documents provide useful definitions and a framework for formalizing such systems. The standards depict an energy system broken down into supply and demand sectors, linked by the flow of tradable energy commodities (or energywares). Each sector has a set of inputs and outputs, some intentional and some harmful byproducts. Sectors may be further divided into subsectors, each fulfilling a dedicated purpose. The demand sector is ultimately present to supply energyware-based services to consumers (see energy-services).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The IPCC chapter on agriculture is titled: Agriculture, forestry, and other land use (AFOLU).
  2. ^ The term intensity refers to quantities which do not scale with component size. See intensive and extensive properties.


  1. ^ a b c d Groscurth, Helmuth-M; Bruckner, Thomas; Kümmel, Reiner (September 1995). "Modeling of energy-services supply systems" (PDF). Energy. 20 (9): 941–958. doi:10.1016/0360-5442(95)00067-Q. ISSN 0360-5442. Retrieved 2016-10-14. 
  2. ^ a b Allwood, Julian M; Bosetti, Valentina; Dubash, Navroz K; Gómez-Echeverri, Luis; von Stechow, Christoph (2014). "Annex I: Glossary, acronyms and chemical symbols". In IPCC. Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PDF). Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1249–1279. ISBN 978-1-107-65481-5. Retrieved 2016-10-12. 
  3. ^ van Ruijven, Bas; Urban, Frauke; Benders, René MJ; Moll, Henri C; van der Sluijs, Jeroen P; de Vries, Bert; van Vuuren, Detlef P (December 2008). "Modeling energy and development: an evaluation of models and concepts" (PDF). World Development. 36 (12): 2801–2821. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2008.01.011. ISSN 0305-750X. Retrieved 2016-10-25. 
  4. ^ a b Hoffman, Kenneth C; Wood, David O (1 November 1976). "Energy system modeling and forecasting" (PDF). Annual Review of Energy. 1 (1): 423–453. doi:10.1146/ ISSN 0362-1626. Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  5. ^ Böhringer, Christoph; Rutherford, Thomas F (March 2008). "Combining bottom-up and top-down" (PDF). Energy Economics. 30 (2): 574–596. doi:10.1016/j.eneco.2007.03.004. ISSN 0140-9883. Retrieved 2016-10-21. 
  6. ^ Herbst, Andrea; Toro, Felipe; Reitze, Felix; Jochem, Eberhard (2012). "Introduction to energy systems modelling" (PDF). Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics. 148 (2): 111–135. Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  7. ^ "Definition of system". Merriam-Webster. Springfield, MA, USA. Retrieved 2016-10-09. 
  8. ^ Anandarajah, Gabrial; Strachan, Neil; Ekins, Paul; Kannan, Ramachandran; Hughes, Nick (March 2009). Pathways to a low carbon economy: Energy systems modelling — UKERC Energy 2050 Research Report 1 — UKERC/RR/ESM/2009/001. United Kingdom: UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). Retrieved 2016-10-22. 
  9. ^ Quelhas, Ana; Gil, Esteban; McCalley, James D; Ryan, Sarah M (May 2007). "A multiperiod generalized network flow model of the US integrated energy system: Part I — Model description" (PDF). IEEE Transactions on Power Systems. 22 (2): 829–836. doi:10.1109/TPWRS.2007.894844. ISSN 0885-8950. Retrieved 2016-10-22. 
  10. ^ Kannan, Ramachandran; Strachan, Neil (April 2009). "Modelling the UK residential energy sector under long-term decarbonisation scenarios: Comparison between energy systems and sectoral modelling approaches". Applied Energy. 86 (4): 416–428. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2008.08.005. ISSN 0306-2619. 
  11. ^ International Recommendations for Energy Statistics (IRES) — ST/ESA/STAT/SER.M/93 (PDF). New York, NY, USA: Statistics Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations. 2016. ISBN 978-92-1-056520-2. Retrieved 2016-12-17.  Annotated as final edited version prior to typesetting. Also covers energy-related greenhouse gas emissions accounting.
  12. ^ Key world energy statistics (PDF). Paris, France: International Energy Agency (IEA). 2016. Retrieved 2016-12-15. 
  13. ^ World Energy Outlook 2016 — Executive summary (PDF). Paris, France: OECD/IEA. 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  14. ^ Bruckner, Thomas; Bashmakov, Igor Alexeyevic; Mulugetta, Yacob; et al. (2014). "Chapter 7: Energy systems". In IPCC. Climate change 2014: mitigation of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PDF). Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. pp. 511–597. ISBN 978-1-107-65481-5. Retrieved 2016-10-12. 
  15. ^ Wittmann, Tobias; Bruckner, Thomas (28–30 June 2009). Agent-based modeling of urban energy supply systems facing climate protection constraints (PDF). Fifth Urban Research Symposium 2009: Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an Urgent Agenda. Marseille, France: The World Bank. Retrieved 2016-11-11. 
  16. ^ Beyond technology: strengthening energy policy through social science (PDF). Cambridge, MA, USA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). 2011. Retrieved 2016-10-25. 
  17. ^ Morrison, Robbie; Wittmann, Tobias; Heise, Jan; Bruckner, Thomas (20–22 June 2005). "Policy-oriented energy system modeling with xeona" (PDF). In Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Proceedings of ECOS 2005: shaping our future energy systems: 18th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization, Simulation and Environmental Impact of Energy Systems. ECOS 2005. 2. Trondheim, Norway: Tapir Academic Press. pp. 659–668. ISBN 82-519-2041-8. Retrieved 2016-10-14. 
  18. ^ Bruckner, Thomas; Morrison, Robbie; Handley, Chris; Patterson, Murray (July 2003). "High-resolution modeling of energy-services supply systems using deeco: overview and application to policy development" (PDF). Annals of Operations Research. 121 (1–4): 151–180. doi:10.1023/A:1023359303704. Retrieved 2016-10-14. 
  19. ^ Haas, Reinhard; Nakicenovic, Nebojsa; Ajanovic, Amela; Faber, Thomas; Kranzl, Lukas; Müller, Andreas; Resch, Gustav (November 2008). "Towards sustainability of energy systems: a primer on how to apply the concept of energy services to identify necessary trends and policies" (PDF). Transition towards Sustainable Energy Systems. 36 (11): 4012–4021. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2008.06.028. ISSN 0301-4215. Retrieved 2016-10-22. 
  20. ^ Duplessis, Bruno; Adnot, Jérôme; Dupont, Maxime; Racapé, François (June 2012). "An empirical typology of energy services based on a well-developed market: France". Energy Policy. 45: 268–276. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2012.02.031. ISSN 0301-4215. 
  21. ^ Technical energy systems: basic concepts — ISO 13600:1997 — First edition. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization. 15 November 1997.  Status withdrawn.
  22. ^ Technical energy systems: basic concepts — ISO 13600:1997 — Technical corrigendum 1. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization. 1 May 1998.  Status withdrawn.
  23. ^ Technical energy systems: : structure for analysis : energyware supply and demand sectors — ISO 13601:1998. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization. 11 June 1998.  Status withdrawn.
  24. ^ Technical energy systems: methods for analysis: part 1: general — ISO 13602-1:2002. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization. 1 November 2002.  Status withdrawn.

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