LLNL Energy Flow Charts
Decision makers have long recognized the importance of visualizing energy and material flows in a way that distinguishes between resources, transformations and services. Research priorities can be defined in terms of changes to the flows, and the consequences of policy or technology shifts can be traced both upstream and downstream.
The usefulness of this top-down view is limited by the level of detail that can be conveyed in a single image. We use two techniques to balance information content with readability. First we employe visualization techniques, such as those embodied in the energy Sankey diagram below (Figure 1), to display both qualitative (relative line weight) and quantitative (listed values) information in a reader-friendly package. The second method is to augment static images with dynamic, scalable digital content containing multiple layers (e.g. energy, carbon and economic data). This transitions the audience from that of a passive reader to an active user of the information. When used in conjunction these approaches enable relatively large, interconnected processes to be described and analyzed efficiently.
Consequently, reliable data is essential for these tools to produce meaningful insight. Moreover, as system complexity grows, so does the difficulty in execution and explanation of such balances. Our technical team has worked at a variety of scales ranging from the municipal to the national and others (region, state/province, agency, corporation, etc.) in between. Ultimately, these tools provide the best results when the client works closely with LLNL developers to describe the critical issues, appropriate granularity, and intended use. Our staff use these requirements to identify existing data, whenever possible, accelerating the analysis process. Where data is nonexistent or insufficient, LLNL staff can specify information that needs to be collected.