Effects of new consumer behaviours due to digitalization on a carbon-free Swiss energy system

Digitalization enables new social practices such as teleworking, e-learning or e-commerce, which replace well-established ones such as commuting to work, going to school or going for shopping. While these new practices are less energy intensive than the ones they replace, they can be associated with rebound effects that increase energy consumption in other sectors. For example, while teleworking may reduce consumption in transport, it can increase heating and electricity consumption at home.

Therefore, this talk attempts to answer the following questions:

• What are the effects of new energy consumption behaviors induced by digitalization on Swiss low-carbon pathways, and

• Can digitalization positively contribute to the energy transition?

In this presentation, Lidia Stermieri describes and demonstrates a new modeling framework developed in the context of her PhD thesis that couples the well-established Swiss TIMES Energy Systems Model (STEM) with a new socio-economic Energy Model for Digitalisation (SEED). SEED is a unique agent-based model based on the social practice approach. It analyzes the impact of new lifestyles enabled by Information and Communication Technologies on energy consumption patterns. The combined application of SEED and STEM allows accounting for socio-economic and technical aspects affecting the rate of adoption of technologies from heterogeneous consumers by accounting for their preferences, social mechanism of changes and different drivers of technology and digitalization diffusion when assessing the long-term configuration of the Swiss energy system under different technology, resource or policy constraints.

In the talk, the integrated STEM-SEED framework is applied to assess net-zero CO2 emissions pathways for Switzerland, considering different digitalization levels of the society. We find that the increased adoption of digital lifestyles results in an overall demand reduction that mitigates the energy system costs to achieve the zero CO2 emissions target in 2050, which in turn implies economic benefit to the Swiss society. The challenges to achieve these results and the related opportunities for Swiss society will be discussed.