3 item(s) found.

The electric grid of Catalonia [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

The electric grid of Catalonia [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB

Aim of the case study

This case study shows how structural and functional elements of the energy system can be aggregated and scaled to move from a description of power plants to a description of the electricity sector, using the tool of processor.

 

Innovative results

The pilot study analysing the electriciy sector of Catalonia shows how the metabolism of a sector can be described by building its structural and functional processors.

Structural processors refer to technologies: in this case, a different processor is built for each type of power plant, such as nuclear, solar PV or hydropower. Within each processor, the pattern of flows (water, electricity, etc.) and funds (land use, human activity, etc.) needed to carry out the process of electricity generation is represented.

Then, rather than just maintaining a structural (technological) description of the system, the structural processors are grouped depending on the function played by the electricity they produce. Functionality here is an emergent property of the complex system: it can partially be traced back to structural characteristics (e.g. nuclear plants are not flexible therefore they produce baseload power) but also depends on the context: hydro-power, for example, can produce both baseload and both peak electricity depending on weather patterns, national policies etc.

In this case, three types of electricity are identified: baseload, peak and intermittent. The structural processors producing the same type of electricity are grouped into three functional processors, which are then aggregated towards a final description of the electricity sectors.

This allows us to: (i) see what flows and funds are consumed and emitted by the electricity sector; (ii) see how its different functional and structural components contribute to the profile of flows and funds.

 

Policy relevant insights

The distinction of different types of electricity based on their functionality is well known in engineering but less discussed in policy processes. By providing a clear and simple link between structural and functional elements, the tools provided by this pilot study can be implemented to discuss pressing energy issues such as renewable energy transitions, efficiency and technological changes, without requiring sophisticated modelling techniques.

 

Nexus insights

The electricity processors represent a pattern of water, energy, land and more, linking them with a type of electricity produced. This way, we can see how different types of power plants, and the different types of electricity generated, affect and are affected by the other nexus elements in the system.

 

Future steps

The proposed electricity grammar is being expanded to the whole energy sector of eight countries in the EU, to contrast and compare their energy metabolism in relation to other nexus elements, and to provide valuable insights into possible constraints posed on future policies. 

Resources

Teams Involved

Animal production system in Scotland [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

Animal production system in Scotland [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB & HUTTON

Aim of the case study

The aim of this pilot study is to illustrate a procedure for integrated multi-level assessment of the animal production system of Scotland capable of: (i) checking the level of openness of the system (dependence on imports) when used in diagnostic mode, and (ii) being used as decision support when used in simulation mode.

 

Innovative results

This case shows that MuSIASEM can be used to coherently integrate differ- ent types of policy relevant information (i.e. nutritional, social, environmental and economic aspects) by establishing a relational analysis over the structural and functional components of an animal production system. When used in this way, MuSIASEM establishes a relation between the consumption of food of animal origin and the biophysical resources (water, energy, soil, human labour) required to produce them.

The difference between what is required because of the domestic consumption and what is used in the domestic production can be used to estimate the level of openness of the system.

When used in diagnostic mode, with processors characterizing the expected profiles of inputs and outputs associated with the different steps of production, MuSIASEM quantifies the virtual quantities of production factors (land, water, labor, energy, fertilizer) embodied in imported (or exported) animal products.

When used in simulation mode, it uses relational analysis (the scaling of the characteristics of structural and functional processors across the different components of the animal production system) to anticipate the changes in the characteristics of the whole determined by changes in the characteristics of lower level components.

The absolute transparency of the system of accounting makes it possible to involve third parties (experts from different disciplines and stakeholders) in a discussion over the quality of the quantitative analysis. This check of the validity of the assumptions used when building the analysis boosts the credibility of the results. 

Possible simulations can include changes in the factors determining:

  • the required supply – e.g. population size, mix of animal products in the diet, level of export,
  • the actual supply – e.g. characteristics of the structural elements expressing the different functions required by the production systems,
  • the terms of trade – e.g. changing import/export of feed and other inputs or the import/export of animal products.

 

Policy relevant insights

MuSIASEM, when implemented with a user-friendly software, can be used to develop participatory tools. The transparency of the system of accounting ensures that this participatory tool is very effective for the involvement of social actors in an informed deliberation over policies to be adopted (Desirability check).

The proposed methodoloy improves the understanding of biophysical resources needed for different scenarios: feasibility is the capacity of the environment to provide the required resources and to assimilate the resulting waste. Viability is the ability of Scottish society to provide the required technological tools and human resources to the animal production system in an economically acceptable way.

MuSIASEM identifies the constituent components (the functional elements needed to have an operational animal production system) and characterizes them using processors (a profile of expected inputs and outputs). Therefore, by adopting this method one can assess and compare various production systems in relation to their specific requirements of biophysical resources (relevant for the protection of the environment) and their costs and benefits for the socioeconomic system.

Thus, one can assess the level of openness of the animal production system identifying the factors determining the vulnerability of the system to internal and external perturbations.

Resources

Teams Involved

Vegetable production in Almeria [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

Vegetable production in Almeria [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB

Aim of the case study

The aim of this pilot study is to define a procedure for integrated and multi-level accounting of the nexus (water, energy, food and land use) in relation to vegetable production at the regional scale. It illustrates how to integrate different types of quantitative information across scales and dimensions of analysis.

 

Innovative results

A diagnostic tool for integrated and multi-level accounting of the WEF-Nexus of vegetable production, with particular emphasis on the connection between agricultural and water systems, is proposed.

Vegetable production is characterized at four analytical levels: crop production processes, farming systems, irrigation areas and the whole Almeria province. These levels are connected through scaling relations.

Water supply is characterized at three analytical levels: water bodies, water sources and end users. These levels are connected through flow relations. Irrigation areas are the analytical level that enables the connection between the two systems: they are water end-users and vegetable producers at the same time. 

Relations between water and food systems are bidirectional: water withdrawal and reception of pollution.

 

Policy relevant insights

The Water Framework Directive 2000/60 requires the achievement of good status of all European water bodies. However, how to handle the nexus with agriculture is still a major challenge.

This case study is relevant because it shows that it is posible to integrate water and food policies in Europe across different levels of analysis. This integration makes it possible to deal with three persistent nexus problems: over-abstraction, nutrients and pesticides pollution.

The proposed accounting framework is capable of quantifying the socio-economic and ecological trade-offs associated with changes in food production and water supply patterns. 

 

Nexus insights

The three nexus dimensions are integrated in a network of nexus components. Water and food compartments in the network are characterized through processors that include a set of relevant inputs and outputs.

When water is a limiting factor for vegetable production, the introduction of desalination and reclamation adds a new dimension to the nexus.

Then we can move from water as a limiting factor to energy as a limiting factor. By using this analysis one can identify the factors determining the viability of alternative water sources in relation to the type of farming systems. More intensive patterns are more likely to be viable with these alternative water sources.

 

Future steps

To analyse different narratives about the nexus between water and agriculture in the region.

To run a series of checks on the validity of narratives about water and agriculture including all relevant social-ecological dimensions. In particular, we will simulate in different scenarios the option space for reducing the pressure over water bodies.

To open a dialogue with local stakeholders about the desirability, viability and feasibility of different technological and policy innovations that can be adopted to meet the Water Framework Directive goals.

Resources

Teams Involved