ɘinfach : an energy system model for education

This proposal describes a simple energy system model, primarily for development and use by school students but also the interested public. It would be written in the Julia language and constituted as a fully functioning open source project.

The working name is “einfach”, German for “easy” or “simple”. That name, currently stylized as “ɘinfach”, can be changed downstream as the project evolves. (The “ɘ” is U+0258.)

The aim is to fill a gap between interpreted data sites (such as renewables.ninja and electricityMap) and full‑strength energy models. Pedagogy would be uppermost with the focus on student‑centered learning. Experienced modelers would be asked to provide voluntary support but the operation of the project itself should remain the responsibility of participants.

This proposal is inspired by the recent arrival of good sources of machine‑readable open data (including the German SMARD and the US Power Explorer sites) and a clearly growing interest in open source development as that paradigm becomes mainstream.

Provisional specification

attribute comment
coding paradigm algebraic rather than object-oriented modeling
programming language Julia
optimization paradigm least‑cost LP extendable to MILP
energy (including electricity) flow minimum-cost flow problem (MCFP)
optimization system operations and optionally capacities
preferred solvers Cbc
platforms (initially) Linux
Raspberry Pi (Debian-based Raspbian environment)
workflow Jupyter notebooks
primary data handling XLSX (local spreadsheet)
OpenEnergyPlatform (remote database)
code license GPL-3.0-or-later (a copyleft or reciprocal license)
data license (preferred) CC-BY-4.0 (permissive)
documentation license CC-BY-4.0 (permissive)
documentation (initially) en-US, de-DE
localization (initially) en-US, de-DE
code commenting en-US
visual design language UML
code host GitHub
distribution git clone (later consider a Julia package)

As is evident above, the philosophy is centered on low‑level development. At this point, there are no plans for a graphical browser‑based interface but users could well add that feature given sufficient interest.

This project is neither a web‑based what‑if scenario generator nor a gamification exercise. The underlying idea is to introduce ideas and practices associated with at‑scale energy modeling to school students and the interested public. A focus on clean design over efficiency and the use of non‑commercial solvers will render the software unsuitable for large‑scale analysis anyway.

Development would be stepwise. It may be better, for instance, to offer sequential optimization first and add full‑horizon optimization later.

The oedb data host from the OpenEnergyPlatform (OEP) would optionally act as a remote real‑time database, thereby facilitating the sharing of data.

The Windows operating system question is difficult. The platform is not ideal for this kind of development and is currently not listed in the table above. One option would be to install the cygwin environment.

Outreach

Some science teachers in Berlin have been contacted. Challenges for able students are often sought. At some point, teachers may need native language resource materials. Later still, continuing education courses, either physical or web‑based, could be worked up and offered.

Open data sources

The project would be allied with preferred data sources. Not all those shown offer fully open (Open Definition compliant) content licenses at present.

site fully open comment
energydata.info :heavy_check_mark: run by the World Bank Group
IDEES developed by the European Commission JRC
OPSD largely dependent on ENTSO‑E licensing policy
Power Explorer :heavy_check_mark: run by World Resources Institute
renewables.ninja currently CC‑BY‑NC‑4.0
SMARD :heavy_check_mark: run by German energy regulator BNetzA
ENTSO‑E Transparency Platform ongoing debate on open licensing

Social media

The project can run from the Open (Energy) System Analysis forum initially. But at some point it may want to transfer to its own infrastructure.

Complying with the GDPR for adults is straightforward. But special considerations apply to those less than 16 years of age under the GDPR and under European Fundamental Rights. Internet forums often encourage participants to provide personal information on registration, but this request would be omitted for minors. In Germany, participants between 14 and 16 may also need signed permission from a parent and participants below 14 years could not be registered for the forum — given that we seek and they report their correct age.

The project would never utilize US‑based social media services like Facebook or Reddit on privacy grounds.

Code and data hosting

At the outset, the project would establish the following hosts:

Related projects

Before proceeding, it is useful to considering what could be scavenged from other projects (the following are all license compatible):

  • OSeMOSYS python fork
  • OSeMOSYS‑based low‑threshold OSeMBE engagement model for Europe
  • oemof components
  • Calliope energy model

It is worth stressing that ɘinfach is not an engagement model seeking to provide interactive analysis to the interested public but a long‑haul modeling project aimed at those wishing to understand and contribute to the development and management of a simplified energy system modeling project.

Participants in the Open Energy Modelling Initiative and other professional modelers would (I hope) be willing to provide technical guidance to project contributors.

Resourcing

The core project would require very minimal outlay beyond domain name fees and modest server hosting (say €200/year). Any workshops would be self funding in the first instance. Teacher outreach may well involve significant expenditure and could be covered by public funding and/or appropriate sponsorship.

Further background

Those seeking additional background on energy modeling can browse the following wikipedia pages:

Feedback

Please discuss on the opensay forum. Registration required.

1 Like

Hey @robbie, I’m following with great interest the new forum, wonderful initiative!

While going through the content, I also discovered that the Copernicus Service is working on a tool for educators, in order to create a platform to go through climate model data in an accessible way. As I have the impression that the initiative is mainly focused on climate projections (and your initiative more bottom-up and more hands-on energy/system modelling), it might be interesting to exchange contacts / complement / collaborate on these matters?

Some background info:

- Tool : https://c3s-edu.wemcouncil.org/
- Description of project: https://www.wemcouncil.org/wp/projects/c3s-climate-and-energy-education-demonstrator/
- Description of climate variables & educational videos: https://www.wemcouncil.org/wp/projects/c3s-climate-and-energy-education-demonstrator/
o A specific lesson on the educational tool will be created in the future in the Copernicus User Learning Service. At the moment they refer to the existing lessons that are available
- Launch Webinar 7 January recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kj268qIXp1Y&feature=emb_title
- User Workshop 27 January recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl6eMjgpXIg&feature=emb_title
- User workshop 21 March 2020 : https://zoom.us/meeting/register/v5Akc-CurzkrK7mDma6Nh_XJSrXhHmctiQ (zoom webinar)

It is based on the Copernicus and Copernicus User Learning service platform. I took the lessons some month ago and made a summary of all the lessons at https://floriandierickx.github.io/library/copernicus/index.html. Highly recommended! The lessons give a good overview of how climate models function and how climate projections can be interpreted, and were created by Delft University.

Hi @floriandierickx I spoke to the director of GFOSS, the Greek non‑profit Open Technologies Alliance, recently. They run fully‑fledged open source “hackerspace” projects in schools served from GitHub. With sufficient backing to offer Raspberry Pi workstations (their terminology not mine!) to support this initiative. One thing that I learned was the children do not have GitHub accounts and all non‑anonymous traffic necessarily passes through their teacher or other supervising adult.

Thank you kindly @floriandierickx for the detailed shout-out regarding the C3S Education Demonstrator. @robbie - very interested to see how this goes and perhaps where collaborations can take place, particularly after our main project contract with ECMWF ends. Feel free to contact our project leader Alberto Troccoli via https://www.wemcouncil.org/wp/about/team/

Hi @kit.rackley-wemc I sent an email to WEMC three days ago and I guess it’s in transit somewhere? Thanks.

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