Climate change mitigation strategies require a rigorous understanding of the factors that drive energy demand and agent-based modelling is a powerful tool that helps to do that, according to a paper published today (9 May 2016).
An agent-based model (ABM) is a computer model for simulating the actions and interactions of autonomous agents (both individual and organizations or groups) to assess their effects on the system as a whole. The authors of this paper, published in Nature Climate Change, argue that an ABM approach better reflects the real world because it allows for a detailed representation of complex agent systems, including the behaviour of agents, their social interactions and the physical and economic environments surrounding them.
Authors Varun Rai and Adam Douglas Henry point out that a crucial aspect of ABM is that decisions are endogenous to the agent and that there is no central ‘control lever’ governing agent behaviours other than the simple decision rules they are programmed with.
The paper, entitled “Agent-based modelling of consumer energy choices”, concludes that “ABM is a promising approach for helping to build better theories and models of energy demand, the understanding and prediction of which is important for addressing climate change”.
Strategies to mitigate global climate change should be grounded in a rigorous understanding of energy systems, particularly the factors that drive energy demand. Agent-based modelling (ABM) is a powerful tool for representing the complexities of energy demand, such as social interactions and spatial constraints. Unlike other approaches for modelling energy demand, ABM is not limited to studying perfectly rational agents or to abstracting micro details into system-level equations. Instead, ABM provides the ability to represent behaviours of energy consumers — such as individual households — using a range of theories, and to examine how the interaction of heterogeneous agents at the micro-level produces macro outcomes of importance to the global climate, such as the adoption of low-carbon behaviours and technologies over space and time. We provide an overview of ABM work in the area of consumer energy choices, with a focus on identifying speci c ways in which ABM can improve understand- ing of both fundamental scienti c and applied aspects of the demand side of energy to aid the design of better policies and programmes. Future research needs for improving the practice of ABM to better understand energy demand are also discussed.
Varun Rai and Adam Douglas Henry; Agent-based modelling of consumer energy choices; Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2967.
Nature Climate Change.