Journal Article

Improving the representation of energy efficiency in an energy system optimization model

November 2, 2021

Applied Energy, Vol 306, Part B, 2022.

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Energy system optimization models (ESOMs) are designed to examine the potential effects of a proposed policy, but often represent energy-efficient technologies and policies in an overly simplified way. Most ESOMs include different end-use technologies with varying efficiencies and select technologies for deployment based solely on least-cost optimization, which drastically oversimplifies consumer decision-making. In this paper, we change the structure of an existing ESOM to model energy efficiency in way that is consistent with microeconomic theory. The resulting model considers the effectiveness of energy-efficient technologies in meeting energy service demands, and their potential to substitute electricity usage by conventional technologies. To test the revised model, we develop a simple hypothetical case and use it to analyze the welfare gain from an energy efficiency subsidy versus a carbon tax policy. In the simple test case, the maximum recovered welfare from an efficiency subsidy is less than 50% of the first-best carbon tax policy.