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William Usher new assistant professor in integrated systems analysis for sustainable development


Published Mar 27, 2023

In 2019, William Usher was appointed Assistant Professor in Integrated Systems Analysis for Sustainable Development at the Unit of Energy Systems/Department of Energy Tehnology/ITM school/KTH.

William Usher, what are your research area, research interests, research methods, and application area?

A man with blonde hair, glasses, and a grey sweater.
William Usher. Photo: Emir Fejzic/KTH

I investigate energy systems from various angles. For example, how do we design national energy systems that meet European climate neutrality under uncertainty? I primarily develop and use linear optimisation models and combine these with different methods to explore uncertainty, such a global sensitivity analysis, scenario discovery, and model comparison.

What do you think are the large research challenges in your research area and why?

Over the next 25 years, we need to implement a fundamental change in the types and ways in which we demand energy services. We need to design energy systems that meet this demand. We also need to manage the transition from our current way of operating energy markets, to one which enables flexibility and is resilient. At the same time, the global pattern of energy consumption and emission growth will shift as more people reach sufficient levels of energy demand. Our current tools must adapt to answer the new questions which require an explicit representation of the new spatial and temporal dimensions of energy.

If you are looking for some research collaborator(s), what competence are you looking for?

I am a strong advocate of working in an open and transparent way, and a cheerleader for Open Science practices. I would love to work with a Research Software Engineer, to provide support to my research group on the increasingly challenging software problems we need to answer the latest research questions. Scientific research is becoming increasingly computational in nature, and we cannot take research software for granted anymore. 

Can you tell us more about one of your research results and why you picked it?

In our latest paper , currently under open review in Open Research Europe, we show how global sensitivity analysis enables modellers to critically reflect upon their approach. We confirm a result seen in other fields - that only a small number of model input parameters account for the majority of influence on results. This is a reminder to all of us who develop and use models – we should always reflect on the broader context in which the model is used and acknowledge all the drivers of model results.

Lastly, what do you like with Sweden, Stockholm and KTH?

Life in Stockholm is very comfortable, the setup for families is excellent, and I enjoy the proximity to water and nature. My favourite activity is jumping on a ferry in summer to explore the archipelago. The journey is spectacular, and there is always another island to explore.

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