An interview to celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Faidra Filippidou, PhD, works on the energy saving and decarbonization potential of building stocks, renewable heating and cooling and the interface of energy demand and supply – with an emphasis on energy efficiency of buildings, energy poverty and co-benefits of the energy transition.

Prior to joining E3-Modelling she worked at Delft University of Technology and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

How did you get involved in work related to climate change and health?

Climate change has been a topic of interest for me since the beginning of my studies. However, I am working on the “energy side” of things and especially on the energy efficiency of buildings. Naturally, both indoor and outdoor health conditions relating to buildings and people living in them have impacts both on climate change and health. I am eager to learn more working with the CATALYSE consortium.

What is your main discipline or field and what unique perspective does it bring to the issue of climate change and health?

I am a mechanical engineer with a specialization (PhD) on the energy performance of buildings through an epidemiological lens. We have been studying buildings and households as entities with pathologies trying to understand phenomena like energy poverty, how to achieve energy savings enough to minimize the impacts of climate change and more. The last five years I have worked on the interaction of buildings with the energy system as a whole through energy economics as the basic discipline. I do believe that understanding supply and demand of energy and the connections of the energy system brings invaluable knowledge to the issue of climate change and health. Consumption and production of energy can be regarded as the start of the issues we are trying to examine.

Your work focuses on decarbonization of the energy system, and buildings in particular. What is currently being done in this sector to reach carbon reduction targets and what mitigation efforts are still lacking?

A lot, but at the same time not enough is being done! If we focus on Europe as an example, the last 20 years have seen remarkable changes in energy policy. This however is not always enough since policies are not fully implemented. Currently, more ambitious goals are being set that need to be adopted by Member States. Despite efforts to achieve targets, there are multiple issues that need to be solved together. This requires elaborate, smart and visionary policies that have as a goal a just transition to a clean future. Specifically in the area of buildings this means that efforts focus on energy renovation and renewable heating and cooling.

Can you explain a bit about the energy systems models that you use? How do they work and what is their innovation?

PRIMES, the energy system model developed by E3M Lab at the NTUA and continued at E3 Modelling, is a partial equilibrium model simulating the entire energy system, both in demand and supply. It includes mixed representations: meaning both bottom-up (engineering, explicit technology choices) and top-down (microeconomic foundation of economic decisions by agent).

PRIMES is modular, with separate modules for each demand and supply sectors and with separate decision making. It represents decentralized decisions for the demand and supply of energy commodities interacting via commodity prices. It is also market-oriented: market equilibrium prices drive energy balancing of demand and supply per energy commodity. PRIMES simulates the Electricity and/or Gas trade within the EU Internal Market and beyond. One of the most important assets is the extensive set of policies represented and of course taxes, subsidies, tradable permits or certificates and energy/environmental policy instruments including standards.

What encouraged you to become a woman in STEM? What in your view is one important way to advocate for women in STEM?

I think that the first encouragement came from my family and our circle of people. I was treated equal to my male peers. My mom, especially, was pushing me to focus on math and physics – she is very good at both! On top of that, I was lucky enough to have a few good teachers who also supported women and girls in science. But, luck is not enough. Simply, we need to understand that women can do and study whatever they want. There is a brilliant book by Mary Beard (Women and Power: A manifesto) explaining that “You can’t easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change the structure”.