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Researcher stories: A researcher modelling the future of the Hungarian energy sector

2022-10-21 08:00:00

From September, every week we will introduce an excellent Corvinus researcher who has recently been rewarded for his/her work. This time you can meet András Mezősi, who, jointly with a number of fellow researchers, has been working for decades in the Regional Centre for Energy Policy Research (REKK) on certain models to work out how renewable energy sources could be used more extensively in Hungary, how the Hungarian energy network could handle the new unit of the Power Plant of Paks, or when Hungary could become climate neutral.

András Mezősi has a totally different approach to the present events related to gas and oil prices in Europe. A phenomenon that requires nation states, businesses and families to be flexible and to do re-planning provides a lot of topics for an energy industry researcher. ‘From our aspect, it is extremely exciting to see that the prices of energy sources have increased fivefold in one year in Europe. We can obviously see its drawbacks in our own lives, but it still gives us a lot of topics.’

Halfway between researcher and consultant

His relation to energy policy dates back to his years at university, when he was a student of the Széchenyi István College for Advanced Studies, attending programmes on renewable energy and carbon trading, which raised his interest in the topic. Later he wrote TDK (Students’ Scientific Association) papers about these subjects, and his thesis was also about an issue related to energy policy.

‘My career was probably decided when I started to work for the REKK during my last year at university. This was 16 years ago’,

says András. In 2014 he obtained his PhD degree, too, and made a continuous progress within the REKK, so since 2019 he has been working as a Senior Research Fellow.

‘The REKK is a special institution in a sense that we have to teach a minimum amount of lessons, and we can devote the majority of our time to research and modelling. A strong professional workshop has been established, and we produce a lot of analyses on demand, for both public and private players. As we talk to the players of the industry very often, we are somewhere halfway between a research centre and an energy industry consulting company’, explains András about the operation of the REKK in practice.

One of his mentors was Gabriella Szajkó, his PhD supervisor, and László Szabó (who also received the Corvinus Research Excellence prize, the article about him can be read here – the editor), who helped him a lot so that the research centre would be able to join the international scientific discourse with publications. András was awarded the Corvinus Research Excellence Prize in the Senior Lecturer-Researcher category in 2021.

They are able to process the results of analyses as publications, too, but for that purpose they have to present the topics in a slightly different way than in the original analysis.

Competent, affordable, sustainable

From the major researches of the past period, he first mentioned his background study for the compilation of the long-term (until 2030-2040) energy strategy of Hungary, which was published in 2021. The staff of the REKK was working on that for a year, and it is a perfect example for a case when it is possible to operate as a research centre and a consultant at the same time.

The background study produced on the order of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology modelled the Hungarian energy network for various potential future situations. For example, what happens, if a new unit at Paks is completed by 2030? Will the capacity of the present energy network be enough when the country uses much more renewable energy sources? How many solar panels are required on national level by 2030 to make sure that renewable sources cover the energy demands of the country in a much higher ratio? What would happen if a new gas-fired power plant would be put into operation?

‘We determined the advantages and disadvantages for the possible scenarios based on our models, but at the end there are usually three key considerations: how safe would the energy supply be with the given solution, how sustainable would it be and what would be the price of the energy for the population. These are the questions we always examine in the energy industry’, lists András the most frequent considerations raised during the research.

He also adds that they always attempt to produce balanced and thorough analyses as much as possible, but they cannot influence the contents of the final strategy: ‘Our task ends with the analysis and the presentation of potential solutions. At the end, a subjective decision is made, and we do not see all the considerations used’.

Climate neutral Hungary within 30 years?

In the course of their long-term projects, the models created by them with scientifically profound methods provide valuable information for the scientific sector, too, so they are able to produce publications from these researches.

A similar project was the ‘How could Hungary become climate neutral until 2050?’ ordered by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology. In the course of that project, the so-called TIMES model was adapted to Hungary.

‘This is a highly data-intensive model containing approximately 1 million pieces of data. It was a serious challenge to collect data for the model from various sectors. In the case of households, for instance, the model includes the type of buildings we have in Hungary, the cooling and heating methods used, how much insulation is applied, how many people live in a building, and what is the average energy consumption required for the operation of the building’, says András Mezősi about the model, adding that they required a team of 10-12 people to collect data of adequate volumes.

As to data, the devil is in the details, as one of the key tasks of a researcher is to decide exactly which pieces of data to use in the model: ‘It is very difficult to teach it, it is rather experience and feelings that help you make good decisions’.

The model helps in projections, too, about the costs of the renovation of a family house or a panel apartment, and what that means for the energy demands of the population. This way researchers may model which types of buildings are most profitable to renovate, so that the energy demands of the population could be ensured in a sustainable way.

The objective of the analysis was to determine the sectors in which reductions are required most so that Hungary could reach climate neutrality, and in a cost-efficient way.

‘I was surprised to find out that with a cost of HUF 600-800 billion per year, climate neutrality could be achieved. At first sight, it seems to be a huge amount, but in reality it is only 1-1.5 per cent of the Hungarian GDP.’

All in all, the way András sees it is Hungary has to continue the development of renewable energy sources both in volume and network capacity. ‘We wrote a study about it, saying that Hungary has developed a lot in this respect lately, and this has to be continued. It is interesting that the present Hungarian regulations make the building of wind power plants impossible, although with the increasingly popular solar energy, the construction of additional wind power plants would offer a promising mix of renewable energy sources.’

Author: László Tucsni, Corvinus Communications

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GEN.:2024.07.15. - 12:37:26