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Integrated Analytical Framework

To provide states with the best available data on the economic, energy, and environmental impacts of various air quality and climate policies, NESCAUM has developed an integrated modeling framework for the northeast states. As depicted in the diagram below, these components include an 11-state NE-MARKAL energy/environment model, an 11-state regional economic model, both the REMSAD and CMAQ regional air quality models (using the SMOKE emissions preprocessor), and the BenMAP and COBRA health benefits assessment tools. Depending on the need for analysis of greenhouse gas policies, global or regional-scale climate models and associated impacts modeling may also be added to this framework. Climate change impact modeling is critical for sound regional planning, but is more dependent upon global policy decisions and is therefore not central to understanding the effects of a particular regional greenhouse gas mitigation policy.

Figure 1: Integrated Regional Policy Analysis Framework
Integrated Regional Policy Analysis Framework


NESCAUM's Climate and Energy Team has been developing a regional MARKAL (MARKet ALlocation) model with support from the EPA's Office of Research and Development. Northeast-MARKAL, or NE-MARKAL, is a comprehensive energy/economic model that simulates the complex dynamics of the overall energy system in 11 northeast states and DC (including energy use by the electricity, transportation, residential, and commercial sectors) by representing technology components and demand activities at an appropriate level of detail. The NE-MARKAL model provides insights into the economic and regulatory implications of emissions control programs (including the costs and benefits of multi-pollutant strategies), renewable portfolio standards, and other climate, energy, or air quality-related policies. MARKAL thus provides policymakers with a valuable tool for assessing the feasibility and efficiency of various control strategies and policy options.


In addition to NE-MARKAL, NESCAUM is developing and applying a number of other modeling tools, including REMI (Regional Economic Models, Inc.). REMI provides a tool for mapping the cost information generated by NE-MARKAL as expenditures (or savings) into respective sub-sectors of the economy affected by future technology shifts. The mapping between NE-MARKAL and REMI provides a framework for the econometric modeling needed to assess various policy options in terms of their impact on economic variables such as jobs, gross state product, or household income.


Emissions estimates generated by the energy/technology model are a key input (along with meteorological wind fields) for regional-scale air quality models which use chemical and physical equations (along with parameterizations for any atmospheric processes that remain poorly understood) to calculate the direct effect of various policies on the ambient concentration of air pollutants such as ground-level ozone (smog), fine particles (PM2.5) and atmospheric mercury. These models are also capable of calculating wet and dry deposition of acid precursor or mercury pollution as well as visibility impairment resulting from fine particles. The REMSAD model contains a sulfate, nitrate and mercury accounting framework which can be used to support source attribution studies. The CMAQ model can be run with Dynamic Decoupled Method (DDM) modules that allow it to determine the sensitivity of ambient concentrations to a variety of input parameters (e.g., precursor species concentration or overall emissions from a specific geographic region).

COBRA and BenMAP (Public Health Co-benefits)

A comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits of various air quality or climate policies requires that modeling efforts recognize and incorporate co-benefits that accrue outside of the traditional energy-related or other emissions source sectors. These co-benefits can include environmental, quality-of-life, and public health benefits that are sometimes very difficult to quantify in monetary terms. Changes in ambient pollutant concentrations as a result of a given policy can be fed into a health benefits assessment tool to calculate likely benefits in terms of the reduced incidence of cardiac and respiratory disease or premature mortality. Available health benefits assessment tools also provide an estimate of cost savings related to public health improvements. These cost savings can then be fed back into econometric models to ensure a robust and comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of various control measures.

BenMAP applies health valuation functions directly to gridded air quality modeling results, thereby providing robust estimates of public health impacts with a high degree of spatial resolution. In contrast the COBRA tool does not require the use of regional air quality models because it incorporates the S-R Matrix air quality lookup tables, which directly translate emission reductions (from NE-MARKAL or estimated) into public health impacts using similar methods to the BenMAP system. Both tools were developed by Abt Associates and are available through the U.S. EPA.

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