Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, is beginning to use technoeconomic analysis to predict the best avenues for decarbonization and climate change solutions.
Technoeconomic analysis is a data-driven process that uses computer models to look at the costs and possible environmental impacts of up-and-coming technologies, according to Corinne Scown, staff scientist at Berkeley Lab.
“Technoeconomic analysis is increasingly expected as part of research projects,” Scown said in an email. “I think that is really healthy, and the fact that more people are incorporating it into their research also means we are bringing up a new generation of “systems thinkers” in the energy and climate change mitigation space.”
This system is currently being used to evaluate the viability of emerging technologies, Scown added. Berkeley Lab has been collaborating within its institution and with outside organizations to test the estimated costs, mass and energy balances and environmental impacts of projects using technoeconomic analysis.
Additionally, these models can be used to calculate the outcomes of scaling up research, Scown noted. This form of “predictive analysis” can aid in supporting the decisions of researchers, industry stakeholders and policymakers.
“From a public policy perspective, technoeconomic analysis (TEA) is an important tool because it allows policymakers to widen the aperture of analysis and better see the interaction between variables over a longer period,” said Todd Achilles, lecturer at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, in an email. “A sophisticated TEA model makes it easier to see the interplay of inputs.”
Achilles noted that venture capitalists and private equity firms undergo modeling techniques that are very similar to technoeconomic analysis. He claimed the difference when pertaining to Berkeley Lab is that the lab is motivated by a desire to increase “social good” instead of maximizing corporate profits.
Technoeconomic analysis is a vital tool in connecting alterations in economic incentives due to technological breakthroughs, according to Achilles.
“Remember that the LAB’s research is heavily funded by the US Government – so this is critical RD&D investment by the US which helps us compete with other nations,” said David Wooley, lecturer and executive director for the Center for Environmental Public Policy at the campus school of public policy, in an email. “Historically US RD&D spending has lagged that of EU and Asian nations, but I think the US has recognized the consequent of that gap and has been increasing RD&D spending.”
Scown said Berkeley Lab is hoping to use technoeconomic analysis across a greater area of basic science and applied projects.
This “mechanistic model,” according to Scown, also has the ability to be combined with machine learning in order to predict a higher ratio of accurate outcomes.
“It’s like having a pair of binoculars so you can better see far in front of you,” Achilles said.