Energy End-Use Forecasting
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Geographic Modeling and Analysis

Project Description

Researchers in LBNL’s Energy Analysis Department (EAD) have used geographic information systems (GIS) to help them better understand topics such as:

  • regional patterns of appliance energy use;
  • the market for energy-efficient products;
  • the energy impacts and savings potential of energy-efficiency performance standards;
  • the correlation between air temperature and air quality;
  • the viability of wind generation in competitive electricity markets; and
  • the potential environmental and economic effects of photovoltaic systems in homes.

Visualization using GIS can be an indispensable tool of the energy analyst. Geographic information systems are more than maps — they are relational databases linked to geographic features that help users to better visualize relationships among data. Patterns that are often hidden in numerical tables reveal themselves when the numbers are superimposed on maps. For example, Map #1 indicates ranges of annual household expenditures for electricity for central air conditioning across the U.S.

Map 1.
Annual Electricity Cost per Household for Central Air Conditioning Across the U.S.

EAD’s GIS researcher supports detailed geographic analysis of the interrelationships among energy, environment, and human activity. Researchers use the GIS to combine many different types of data to understand who owns which energy-using technologies and how they use them. An in-depth understanding of state-of-the-art technologies and the simulation models used to assess their performance, along with a library of large data sets, allow LBNL’s GIS researchers to analyze energy issues at different geographic levels, depending on project needs.

Types of Data Geographic Levels
Household characteristics Zipcode locations
Appliance and equipment ownership Census tracts
Building shell characteristics Cities
Technology cost and efficiency Counties
Building construction and retirement Metropolitan areas
Fuel prices Congressional districts
Climate characteristics Service territories for utilities
Census demographic data States
Energy Consumption Census divisions

A primary advantage of GIS analysis is that researchers can easily integrate data sets with dissimilar geographic boundaries. In the past, researchers attempting to understand patterns of energy use and ways to promote energy efficiency have had to rely on published data at whatever level of aggregation was available (most often, national). However, the GIS system’s ability to integrate data sets makes it possible for researchers to examine energy issues at a much more detailed geographic level. Some specific GIS projects are described below.

End-Use Forecasting Group
Designing Energy-Efficiency Programs: Researchers in the Forecasting Group have used GIS to help the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) design effective energy-efficiency programs. For this project, a detailed, GIS-based model was used to identify regions and market segments in which energy-efficient heating and cooling technologies were technically feasible, cost-effective, and acceptable to consumers. This analysis relied upon household-level data from the Energy Information Administration’s 1990 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, which is a representative survey of more than 5000 U.S. households. The GIS model also included census data, zipcode boundaries, and gas and electric utility prices. Based on the GIS model, researchers were able to recommend to EPA specific zipcodes within various cities that were likely to provide the best results for EPA’s direct-mail marketing of energy-efficient appliances. Map #2 indicates, for the Washington DC area, the number of households that were unqualified for a standard home loan but were able to qualify for an energy-efficient home loan.

Map 2.
Number of Households Qualifying for an Energy-Efficient Home Loan that Failed to Qualify for a Standard Home Loan

Energy Efficiency Standards Group
Efficiency Standards for Appliances: Minimum energy-efficiency standards for appliances are being developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act. Researchers in EAD’s Appliance Standards group use GIS to help DOE to fine-tune these standards. For this project, data inputs describe appliance type and ownership, demographic variables, and energy use, typically at the household level. Incorporating characteristics such as climate, energy consumption, the economics of efficient technologies, and energy prices, GIS is used to model the effects of proposed energy-efficiency standards. See Report #1 under "Publications" below.

Mitgation of Heat Islands
Heat Islands/Cool Communities Project: For this project, researchers used GIS to create a database of the albedo (surface reflectivity) of Southern California using images taken from a satellite. They worked with the albedo data in a meteorological model to simulate the Los Angeles basin’s climate, including its temperature field. With an urban airshed model, the researchers produced a map of ozone concentrations for the basin. This research has helped scientists to better understand how air quality correlates with air temperature.

Electricity Markets and Policy (EMP)
Assessing the Viability of Wind Generation: Researchers in the EMP and forecasting groups have used GIS to develop improved methods for assessing the viability of wind generation in competitive electricity markets. A recent publication assesses the potential profitability of 36 promising wind sites in California. The assessment relies primarily on two tools: (1) GIS is used to estimate the cost of wind farm development; and (2) Elfin, an electricity production cost model, is used to estimate the possible revenues and profits of wind farms at the selected sites. Calculations based on GIS and Elfin represent an improvement over simple profitability calculations because they include a site-specific development cost calculation and also account for the effect of time-varying market prices on revenues. See Report #3 under "Publications" below.

Estimating the Environmental and Economic Effects of Widespread Residential PV Adoption Using GIS and NEMS: The steadily decreasing prices of distributed photovoltaic (PV) systems have led researchers to consider the potential cost-effectiveness of PV systems as an alternative or supplement to utility power at grid-connected sites throughout the U.S. Based on data including residential electricity prices, number of grid-connected households, and amount of incoming solar radiation, a GIS model was used to estimate the maximum number of single-family households in the U.S. for which adoption of rooftop PV systems could be cost-effective. Adoption of residential rooftop PV systems was assumed to occur if the levelized cost of the PV system (in ¢/kilowatt-hour) was less than the local average retail price of electricity.

Based on the GIS model output for the number of homes potentially installing PV systems, the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS) was then used to estimate the economic and environmental effects of the potential PV generation. Research results indicate that, given current utility prices, PV systems are not yet cost-competitive anywhere in the U.S. Assuming continuing price decreases for PV systems as well as favorable financial conditions (e.g., federal tax breaks for energy-efficient investments and low interest rates), PV systems will become cost-competitive compared to utility rates in the future. Based on the GIS/NEMS analysis, halving the costs of PV systems would make them competitive in 16% of U.S. single-family homes; if installed, these systems would reduce U.S. residential electricity sales by about 6% and annual carbon emissions by about 6 million metric tonnes. See Report #2 under "Publications" below.

Additional GIS-Related Projects in EETD
The LBNL high-radon project used explanatory variables such as geologic information and climate information, in conjunction with indoor radon measurements, to locate areas of the U.S. that are likely to have a large fraction of high-radon homes. A GIS was used to extract information about particular areas from geographically-based data sets, and this information was fed into statistical models to predict radon distributions by area.

Project Staff

Rich Brown

Celina Atkinson

Sarah Bretz

Xiaomin Liu

Chris Marnay

Julie Osborn

Cooper Richey

Haider Taha

Key Data

Profitability of an EPA ENERGY STAR Geothermal Heat Pump Compared to a Standard Air-Source Heat Pump

Number of Households in the DC Area That Did Not Qualify For a Standard Home Loan But Did Qualify for an Energy-Efficient Home Loan

Life-Cycle Cost Savings for an EPA ENERGY STAR Gas Furnace Compared to a Standard Gas Furnace

Saturation of Old Gas Furnaces in Single-Family, Owner-Occupied Homes in the DC Area

Summary table of "Potential Photovoltaic (PV) System Adoption Based on System Price" | 20 k excel 98 file


Koomey, Jonathan G., Susan A. Mahler, Carrie A. Webber, and James E. McMahon. 1998. "Projected Regional Impacts of Appliance Efficiency Standards for the U.S. Residential Sector." Report No. LBNL- 39511. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. February.
Abstract | 314k pdf

Marnay, Chris, R. Cooper Richey, Susan Mahler, Sarah Bretz, and Robert Markel. 1997. "Estimating the Environmental and Economic Effects of Widespread Residential PV Adoption Using GIS and NEMS." Report No. LBNL-41030. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Abstract and Paper.

Sezgen, Osman, Chris Marnay, and Sarah Bretz. 1998. "Wind Generation in the Future Competitive California Power Market." Report No. LBNL-41134. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. March.
Abstract and Paper

Other Resources

General GIS-Related Websites

National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA): The NCGIA is an independent research consortium whose primary mandate is to conduct basic research in geographic information science and its related technology.

Women in GIS Social Club (WIGS): WIGS is an informal social organization for women in GIS and related technologies. This site provides a place for women in GIS to get to know each other.

U.S. Census TIGER/Line 1995 Data Information: These files are the public product created from the Census Bureau’s TIGER´┐Ż (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) database of geographic information. The files are a digital database of U.S. geographic features such as roads, railroads, rivers, political boundaries, and census statistical boundaries. The database contains information about these features such as their name, location in latitude and longitude, feature type, address ranges for most streets, and geographic relationship to other features.

GIS Data and Software Library: This site provides a long list of other websites offering GIS data and software.

STARTING THE HUNT: Guide To Mostly On-line And Mostly Free U.S. Geospatial and Attribute Data: The purpose of this site is to provide a starting point for those beginning to track down sources of digital geospatial data and attributes related to the U.S. Links are provided to a long list of pertinent websites.

MetaData and WWW Mapping Home Page: This site provides links to a long list of websites pertaining to mapping.

Penn State University’s Digital Chart of the World Server: This website allows you to download the boundaries and layers of different countries, in Arc/INFO export format, from ESRI’s Digital Chart of the World data set. Their mapping function will give you a preview of the data.

Federal GIS-Related Websites

U.S. Census Bureau: This website provides answers to frequently asked questions about GIS.

Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC): The FGDC is composed of 16 federal agencies. In cooperation with organizations from state, local, and tribal governments, the academic community, and the private sector, the FGDC is coordinating the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The NSDI promotes data-sharing among organizations through the establishment of policies, standards, and procedures for the collection and distribution of geographic data.

EPA’s National GIS Program: This program was established in 1987 in order to manage, coordinate, and promote EPA’s integrated use of spatial data; the program serves as a focal point for GIS issues within EPA.

Bureau of Land Management’s Geospatial Information Center: The purpose of this website is to consolidate access to information about GIS which may be useful to the GIS community.

U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)’ Office of Geographic Information Services: The BTS’s Office of Geographic Information Services is a national resource for transportation spatial data and GIS in transportation (GIS-T) information.

U.S. Geological Survey’s National Mapping Program (NMP): The production of digital cartographic data and graphic maps comprises the largest component of NMP. Cartographic data are compiled from aerial photographs, other remotely sensed images, historical records, legal documents, and direct field observations and surveys and comply with standards of content, geometric accuracy, and presentation. The NMP incorporates the documented needs of 40 federal agencies and the 50 states, which are solicited and analyzed as part of a continuous requirements assessment process.

Useful resources that can be reached through the general USGS mapping site include:

(a) USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS): This site provides information about almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the U.S. The federally-recognized name of each feature included in the database is identified, and references are made to a feature’s location by state, county, and geographic coordinates.

(b) USGS Global Land Information System (GLIS): GLIS is an interactive computer system developed for scientists seeking sources of information about the Earth’s land surfaces. Using GLIS, scientists can evaluate data sets, determine their availability, and place online requests for products. The GLIS contains references to regional, continental, and global land information including land use, land cover, and soils data; cultural and topographic data; and remotely sensed satellite and aircraft data.

(c) USGS National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse: The Clearinghouse provides users with information about the geospatial or spatially referenced data that is available from USGS. The information is in the form of metadata ("data about data"), which describe the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of data.

California GIS-Related Websites

California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES): CERES is an information system developed by the California Resources Agency to facilitate access to a variety of electronic data describing California’s rich and diverse environments. The goal of CERES is to improve environmental analysis and planning by integrating natural and cultural resource information from multiple contributors and by making it available and useful to a wide variety of users.

UC Berkeley’s Geographic Information Science Center (GISC): The new GISC was established to coordinate the acquisition, instruction, deployment, and development of GIS technologies on the UC-Berkeley campus. The fundamental mission of GISC is to raise the level of GIS expertise on campus and stimulate cross-disciplinary education, research, and cooperation using these technologies. The Center provides computer infrastructure support, shared hardware resources, distribution of site licensed software, specialized instructional classes and seminars, data development, repository and access, consulting services, programming support, community building, and outreach.

UC Berkeley Digital Library Project: This project combines the efforts of faculty, staff, and students in numerous departments at UC-Berkeley as well as various government agencies and industrial partners. The goal of the project is to develop technologies for intelligent access to massive, distributed collections of photographs, satellite images, maps, full text documents, and "multivalent" documents.

Teale’s GIS Solutions Group: This group develops GIS tools and data for environmental, economic, and social applications. They provide a variety of GIS-related files to state, federal, and local government, public interest groups, and private companies. Services include consulting, GIS training and education, database development, database linkages, customized user interfaces, mapping, plotting, and address matching.

Energy Star energy conservation energy savings energy efficiency environment climate change weatherization solar energy appliances energy audit energy tools efficient buildings energy education heating cooling heat pumps furnaces boilers air conditioners insulation ducts skylights windows thermostats fuel switching mechanical ventilation water heater water heating refrigerator freezer dishwasher clotheswasher clothes dryer miscellaneous energy home energy comfort remodeling residential energy.

TEMA Group Site The Enduse Forecasting Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
 Last Updated On: 8/19/04