Researcher Highlight: Gokul Iyer

Originally published in our February 2021 newsletter (Issue 8)

Gokul Iyer is a scientist working in the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Gokul’s research broadly focuses on interactions across energy, economic, water, land, and climate systems, technology, and institutions at regional to global scales. Gokul has an interdisciplinary background with a Bachelor of Technology degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India (2009), a Master of Technology degree in Energy Systems Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India (2011), and a PhD in Policy Studies from the University of Maryland College Park, USA (2015).

Gokul’s contribution and leadership roles in the multisector dynamics community include his role as a Major Experiment lead within the Global Change Intersectoral Modeling System (GCIMS) project, and a capability lead for the Global Change Analysis Model (GCAM) within the Integrated Multi-sector Multi-scale Modeling (IM3) project. Traditionally, multisector models of similar class and scope as GCAM have been used to study human-Earth system interactions at coarse geographic and temporal scales, dividing the world into one to three dozen geopolitical regions and running in half-decade increments. In response to the needs of understanding human-Earth system interactions at finer spatial and temporal scales, modeling efforts have begun to incorporate more detail into such models., Gokul has been coordinating multi-year, multi-researcher efforts to improve the representation of subnational energy-water-land dynamics within GCAM by developing GCAM-USA – the version of GCAM with state-level details in the USA. His work pushes the boundary in terms of spatial, temporal, sectoral, and technological detail for models of GCAM’s scope and class.

Recently, Gokul—along with Neal Graham, Mohamad Hejazi, and Son H. Kim—coordinated the improved representation of water supplies and demands within GCAM-USA. As a result, GCAM-USA now includes state-level representations of energy, state- and basin- level representations of water and land systems, and interactions across them. Since GCAM-USA also represents the rest of the world in the same regions as GCAM, these improvements allow users to run a broad range of multi-decadal scenarios of human and natural systems with subnational details in a consistent, integrated framework that simultaneously accounts for subnational dynamics within the USA while also capturing key interactions in the rest of the globe.

In addition, Gokul led a team of researchers including Marshall Wise, Pralit Patel, Matthew Binsted, Son Kim, Yang Ou, and Zarrar Khan to incorporate improved state-level technology, resource, and socioeconomic assumptions in GCAM-USA. More recently, the team incorporated information about sub-annual (monthly day/night) electricity load profiles, and separate markets for electric capacity and electricity demand in GCAM-USA. In addition, the team implemented dynamically and endogenously changing load profiles in response to future temperature changes and associated investment and operation decisions within GCAM-USA. The improved model also includes representations of key structural elements of the power sector such as electricity trade across multi-state grids and between states within a grid. Ongoing efforts at JGCRI are focused on expanding this capability to the rest of the globe and including representations of electric storage.

Gokul’s current research also focuses on better understanding how regional teleconnections through trade and resource supply networks can affect the co-evolution of energy-water-land systems within the USA and globally. As part of this effort, Gokul is coordinating efforts across JGCRI to improve representation of water resources and energy trade, incorporate mineral resources and trade, and implement forest trade in GCAM. His work is expected to provide a quantification and mapping of regional teleconnections across the globe for energy, water, land systems in the 21st century.


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