Energize: An interactive evaluation tool for engaging the general public with energy decision making

Lindsay Shuller-Nickles, Matthew Boyer, Michael Carbajales-Dale, Stephen Moysey, Frances Smith, Robert Bickhart, Megan Hoover, Alexander Hanna

Clemson University

The public has an ever-increasing interest in the economic, environmental, and social impacts of the global energy production. To support informed decision making, the scientific community has a responsibility to communicate reliable and straightforward information to the general public, in an engaging way, regarding energy systems and how choices made at different stages of an energy technology life cycle can impact the cost, amount of materials used, and waste produced. Our objective is to enhance public engagement via an interactive electrical energy game through which users can interact with one another in their quest to develop an electrical energy portfolio that optimizes economic (e.g., company profit), environmental (e.g., reduced CO2 emissions), and social (e.g., public opinion) impacts. Individual users will be introduced to the simulation environment as follows: “Congratulations on your new appointment as the CEO for [generic energy company]. As CEO, your goal is to maintain balance of your key metrics …. Best of luck!” Each player is given an existing power plant portfolio, expected electricity demand, and prompted to start taking action. Particular emphasis will be placed on the nuclear fuel cycle, comparing different fuel cycle technologies using the data from the DOE Nuclear Fuel Cycle Options Catalog.

The development of the Energize game is two-fold: 1. Accurate and quantifiable modeling of electrical energy systems and 2. Engaging and interactive user interface within the construct of the game narrative. Research efforts are underway in both the front end (game narrative) and back end (system modeling) aspects of our energy simulator. The VenSim modeling software is used for construction of our initial back-end models. The water resources game Naranpur provides a baseline for many of the Energize game mechanics, as well as a platform upon which to configure our energy systems models within the construct of a game interface. An initial focus group was used to gain insight into user interactions with Naranpur and found that emphasis on the visual depiction of the game is key for grabbing user attention. Further, users vary in the quantity of information desired during game play. Here we present the overall game narrative, initial user interface and pose the question: “How much is too much?” Can users experience information overload, leading to indifference with the game interface?