PhD. Candidate

Naud Loomans

About me

When thinking about my future career during my studies I decided that having a meaningful job is amongst the most important aspects of life. I was concerned with climate change and the energy transition for a long time already, so I decided this was the perfect discipline to work in. During my studies on innovation sciences I learned not only about the magnitude of the climate change crisis, but also the complexity of the societal transitions required to solve this crisis. Our entire world is based on a fossil fueled economy, from the institutions that keep it in place to the world views that have come to dominate society. I believe our best shot at dealing with this complexity is breaking it down and structuring it in models. These models must be comprehensive, including not just technological and economic drivers to change, but also psychological factors, societal values and institutional embeddedness. During my master thesis I have explored how such models can help to accelerate the energy transition. By showing some of the basic dynamics of a renewable energy system to policy makers in a dynamic and interactive model, they could experience first hand what some of the effects of the policies they envisioned would be. This gave them a far better understanding of how the system actually works than any ordinary report would. From that point on I decided that improving this models to both, increase my own knowledge, and be able to structure it and break it down for others, would by my way to go. Next to practicing this as an modeler and consultant at Zenmo I can now dive even deeper into the model development during this PhD project.

Personal Motivation

My main goal is having a meaningful job. The climate crisis is the biggest issue of our times and I want to be part of the solution, however tiny a part this might be. From this perspective being a PhD. within the NEON program is an absolute blessing. Unlike most other research programs or companies the ultimate goal of NEON is very explicit to make impact on accelerating the energy and mobility transition. This long-term goal is of course shaped by some underlying ideas of how to make impact. From my work at Zenmo I have seen that some of the biggest factors hampering progress is a lack of specific subject knowledge by policy makers, and a lack of system overview by domain experts. I believe we can bridge that gap by using our models as a tool, that rapidly increases understanding and shows the energy and mobility transition not as separate domains, but integrated in the broad scope of a single socio-technical system. Next to improving knowledge dissemination I am also inherently driven to increase system understanding. It bothers me greatly when I see a model or report on which policy is based that places some impactful dynamics out of scope because they are too uncertain or difficult to incorporate. Therefore I will always keep an eye out and make sure our models are as comprehensive and detailed as needed, and the system overview is maintained.

Agent-based socio-technical energy transition models

Working on agent-based energy transition models I explore and analyze robust pathways to accelerate the energy transition. The models enable me to take a broad perspective to transition pathways, from technologically and economically feasible scenarios towards socially preferred transitions. We do this by adding transition theories, market behavior and human preferences to the analysis of net-zero energy systems.

More specifically I am focussend on the interlinkages between different societal and technological domains within the energy transition, such as sector-coupling and ‘smart energy systems’. Some transition pathways will lead to tremendously costly lock-in effects while other will accelerate coinciding technologies. To get a grip on the numerous dynamics within the energy and mobility transition a comprehensive system overview is required. Agent-based socio-technical energy transition models are for me a tool to structure these dynamics, combine them in a single system overview, and find out how they affect each other.

The models are not just a tool for me to understand the system myself, they also help explaining transition dynamics to others (see this clip). I think this way of explaining energy transition trade-offs, no-regret options and other intervention points in an interactive and appealing way to policy makers or domain experts is our best shot at reaching NEON’s ultimate goal: to accelerate the energy and mobility transition.

Link to other neon research

As I am responsible for a comprehensive system overview of the model and scenario output I will need to keep in close collaboration to all other workpackages. Especially my fellow PhD’s working on specific model components in Work Package 10 of course. But also the technological domain experts from work packages 1-6, and the social research in work packages 7 – 9. From my innovation sciences background I especially look forward to the possibilities of including psychological or social drivers for change into our models.