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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsI’m Jordi Solé, scientist at the Spanish Research Council, and I am also the PI of the MEDEAS project which is a Horizon 2020 project. It is a European project where we are focused on the modelling of the energy transition to non-fossil fuels energy sources. We are just designing a model to advise and to give scientific knowledge about how to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsThe energy transition it’s, I would say, a must, in the current society and in our economy. Why? Because our economy is designed to grow and what we must face in the near future is that the fossil fuels, which our society needs to keep expanding and to keep growing, will just reach a peak, a maximum of extraction, and that peak will be in the next decade. We need now in advance to program and to design how to shift from fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources to renewable energy sources.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 secondsThe challenges that our society should face in the future, the near future, will be in two big areas. One area will be the social economic issues, and the other area the tech, I would say, technical and properly scientific issues. Our society behaves now as if there is infinite sources of energy which are fossil fuels, and now we need to change to another kind of energies. The behaviour of the society must take into account the limits of the planet and the limits of the resources.

Skip to 2 minutes and 36 secondsIn the Medea project we try to, first the objective is to design a new model. That new model will be open source, it will be a Python program which is open source language. And will be available for everyone that wants to use it, and download it, and play with the model. And the other thing is that we just, in the construction of the model, we will consider two other models that are, I would say, current models that are used by the scientific community which are the TIMES MARKAL model, in the part that is applied in Austria, and the LEAP model which is applied in Bulgaria.

Skip to 3 minutes and 20 secondsSo will use our design model, the Medea's model to compare with those well-established models, to be sure that the outcomes and the outputs of the model are coherent with the actual knowledge and the actual working models. That model will be at three levels. World level, which is model for the whole energy system in the whole world. European level, which is a model just more focused on that what happens in the European community, our energy system and how to make the transition within Europe. And then two particular cases in two particular countries of Europe, one is Austria and the other one is Bulgaria.

Skip to 4 minutes and 14 secondsThe scenarios that we are considering in our project are specific for Medeas model design, but compatible with what it’s called “SSP scenarios in the IPCC” research and outcomes. SSP scenarios are Shared Socio-economic Pathways. There are different publications, last year there are different papers related to that scenario. What we do in Medea is to make scenarios that are compatible with that the scenarios that are really mainstream scenarios because they are just developing the socio-economic part of the IPCC scenarios. What we have is to consider three main lines of evolution. One line will be called "Optimal Transition", which is starting from 2020 and making the transition as fast and as smooth as we can to renewable energy sources until 2050.

Skip to 5 minutes and 16 secondsAnd that means that we make a lot of effort to achieve in 2050 that 80% of the energy mix will be from renewable energy sources. That is compatible with what is called in the IPCC and the European Community and their commission which requires in the said plan that transition. The “Business as usual” scenario is considering that are we just keep things like now, so making some efforts but with a, let's say, transformation of the energy mix like in the past. And we evaluate what kind of impacts will have that, for instance in CO2 emissions, reduction of fossil fuels, and social impacts too.

Skip to 6 minutes and 10 secondsAnd the other one is what we call ”Mid-level transition scenario” which is: we will wait until, we won't want to start in 2020, but we will wait until 2030. I will see what that implies. Those scenarios are very useful, because from the scenarios you can calculate the percentage of transformation we need to have, or the implementation we need to have each year, to achieve the objective of renewable transition. And we got some interesting things like, if we just want to keep in the "Optimal Transition" scenario, we need an implementation, a deployment of renewable energy sources of at least 7% each year.

Skip to 7 minutes and 4 secondsTechnical barriers are related mainly, I would say, in the intermittency of the renewable energy sources, and the changes that we need to make in the electric grid, and also the consumer behaviour patterns. And that links with also the socio-economic issues which are mainly investment, because for the renewable resources we have long-term, mid and long-term investments which means not only deployment of the renewable energy sources but also to maintain it, to keep going the infrastructure. And the other big issue is social issues.

Skip to 7 minutes and 48 secondsWhat we need to be aware is that a change in the different energy mix will imply necessarily a lower level of power and energy consumption, and that means that also the behaviour of the consumers should readapt to that different level of energy that the renewable energy sources can’t provide. There's another thing that goes to the field of the biophysical limits of the system. Just to rise the question of what it is called… now in science it’s a very hot topic, which is the “water-energy-food”, the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus” because in ecology there is the concept of "Carrying Capacity", so whatever you want, whatever system you analyse, there is a maximum level of growth.

Skip to 8 minutes and 42 secondsUntil you reach that level of growth it is impossible to keep growing. So the biophysical limits that are mainly in our model analysed, in terms of climate change, climate impacts, and land uses that just keep the system within the limits. And another thing it's the also the need of materials, raw materials for the renewable energy sources, but not only for that, for all the batteries... For instance, if you use biofuels you just need land. We need to realize also that it's impossible to grow, to have an infinite growth in a finite planet.

Meet the expert: How to make the transition from fossils fuels to renewable energies

As you will find out throughout the course, we’ve complemented every video content with interviews with experts in each field in order to deepen the knowledge through specific experiences. In this first interview, you will meet Jordi Solé, researcher at the Institut de Ciències del Mar (Institut of Marine Sciences) of Catalonia and project leader of MEDEAS, a project to design a new transition model towards a low carbon economy.

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This video is from the free online course:

Smart Grids for Smart Cities: Towards Zero Emissions