Review of the use of system dynamics (SD) in scrutinizing local energy transitions

J Environ Manage. 2020 Oct 15;272:111053. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111053. Epub 2020 Jul 11.

Abstract

Local energy transition processes are complex socio-technical transitions requiring careful study. The use of System Dynamics (SD) in modelling and analyzing local energy transitions is especially suitable given the characteristics of SD. Our aim is to systematically categorize the different ways SD is used and useful to scrutinize local energy transitions, and to see if we can discern any common themes that can be useful to researchers looking to scrutinize local energy transitions, using SD. The study is exploratory in nature, with peer-reviewed journal and conference articles analyzed using content analysis. The six categories on which the articles are analyzed are: the sector the article studies; the transition that is studied in the article; the modelling depth in the article; the objective of the article; the justification for using SD provided in the article and the levels of interaction with 'local'. Our findings show most of the local energy transitions have been studied using simulatable Stock and Flow Diagrams in SD methodology. The important sectors in the energy field are represented in terms of SD modelling of local energy transitions, including electricity, transport, district heating etc. Most of the local energy transitions scrutinized by SD in the articles have descriptive objectives, with some prescriptive, and just one evaluative objective. In terms of justification for using SD provided by the articles analyzed in this study, we found four major themes along which the justifications that were provided. They are dynamics, feedbacks, delays and complexity, systematic thinking, bridging disciplines and actor interactions and behaviour. The 'dynamics, feedbacks, delays and complexity' theme is the most cited justification for the use of SD in scrutinizing local energy transitions, followed by systematic thinking.

Keywords: Energy transitions; Local; Modelling; Multi-level perspective; System dynamics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Energy Resources*
  • Heating
  • Systems Analysis*