The CanESS Model

The Canadian Energy Systems Simulator (CanESS), developed by whatIf? Technologies Inc., is an integrated, multi-fuel, multi-sector, provincially-disaggregated energy systems model for Canada. CanESS enables bottom-up accounting for energy supply and demand, including energy feedstocks (e.g. coal, oil, gas), energy consuming service technology stocks (e.g. vehicles, appliances, dwellings) and all intermediate energy flows. Energy is used when and where technologies are employed, and that is also the time and place for emissions to occur (see Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Schematic representation of an energy system by means of stocks of harvesting, conversion, and service technologies supplying or demanding energy and the resulting energy flows

CanESS Model Structure

Fig. 5 below illustrates how the model accounts for changes in technologies and the resulting changes in energy flows. The primary drivers for changes in energy use are demographic and macro-economic dynamics. Together these two model components determine the final demand in the residential, commercial, transport and industrial sector. These sectors set the demand for energy currencies (electricity, refined petroleum products, natural gas, biofuels, hydrogen, steam) to which energy producers respond. The production of these energy commodities subsequently sets the demand for primary energy sources (crude oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, and biomass) and other renewables (solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind). A balanced supply and demand of energy currencies and energy feedstock is achieved through trade.

Fig. 5. Computational structure of the CanESS model

CanESS Computational Structure

CanESS is calibrated with observed historical data from 1978 to the present in one year steps, and it enables projection of scenarios forward to 2050 and beyond, again in one year steps. The calibration process combines observed data from many different sources to derive historical values for the stock, flow, and parameter variables in CanESS. Major data sources used to populate the model variables are CANSIM and the Energy Efficiency Trends Analysis Database from the Office of Energy Efficiency of Natural Resources Canada. All data are integrated, and model parameters are adjusted to ensure tracking on the Report on Energy Supply and Demand (RESD) from CANSIM in terms of energy use, and on the National Inventory Report from Environment Canada in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Calibration is an indispensable step in the creation of a simulation model because it not only validates the model, it also provides a technology stock as well as a historical trend for the model variables from which simulation inputs may be derived. A reference scenario is created by extending the observed historical trends (most often with certain saturation limits) into simulation time with an overlay of known developments in the foreseeable future such as committed production capacity to be built, regulations and standards, and communicated policies.

The reference scenario provides a benchmark to assess alternative energy futures that may result from changes in assumed rates of population or GDP growth, changes in harvesting, conversion or service technologies, or changes in policy instruments that affect behaviour. CanESS is a powerful accounting tool to assess energy future scenarios that will inform policy and investment decisions by government as well as industries from a wide range of sectors.

For more information on the CanESS model see

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