European Conference on Complex Systems at Université Libre de Bruxelles - Satellite Workshop : 5th September 2012

Sustainable Energy, Complexity Science and the Smart Grid

Workshop Abstracts and presentations

Abstracts and presentations from the workshop will be made available here


Timetable - The finalised agenda for the workshop is now available. Please download the timetable

Workshop Rationale

One of the greatest problems that we face is that of maintaining the levels of comfort and quality of life in the face of a need to dramatically reduce our CO2 emissions and hence our dependency on fossil fuels. This is because the level of carbon emissions is linked to the amount of future Climate Change that we shall face and to the possibility of massive disruption and disaster if we do not reduce our use of fossil fuels. By 2050 we are supposed to have reduced our carbon emissions by 80% of the 1990 level, and this will require an enormous scientific and technological effort. Of course we can try to reduce our energy requirements with better insulation, less travel etc. but this really will not achieve anything like the decrease in emissions that are required. Generally the plan is to make electricity the main energy carrier, to include transport and heating, and to generate what will be around three times the amount of electricity as today, but with only 20% of the emissions of 1990. Obviously, this will entail the development of very large amounts of energy using ‘renewables’ such as wind, solar, tidal etc. as well as nuclear, and the large volumes of ‘renewable’ sources will introduce a far greater level of intermittency in the power generation system. In general then, the system will change from being essentially a ‘top-down’ centralized generation system, with distribution organized through a central network to a new spatially distributed pattern of generation and consumption, which will constitute a Complex System. Because of this the development of this new, vital infrastructure is being studied using complexity science.

In particular, the dynamic, spatially distributed patterns of generation, storage and consumption are being studied using multi-agent models, with learning agents at different levels of the system. So, there will be many generators of different sizes, and there will be dynamic markets of ‘aggregators’ who will distribute energy from multiple sources, providing resilience in the market place. Also, there will be the development of Smart Grids that can use information to manage demand and supply dynamically, thus reducing the amount of extra capacity needed to deal with the intermittency of the renewable generation. This is of great interest from a Complexity Science standpoint to facilitate the development of the grid - at a task-oriented level of description - as a “system of systems”, which could co-evolve to replace the centralised structure of national power systems evident today. This conception of the Smart Grid is now of international interest and concern. From this perspective, there is a need to raise awareness of stakeholders at all levels of the possible emergent properties that may be expected from interactions between the individual systems. For example, systems of this kind can exhibit specific kinds of emergence that might be desirable such as resilience, or undesirable, such as instability, in this context. At another level of description, the Smart Grid has been conceptualised potentially as a Complex Adaptive System (CAS), for example in studies such as CASCADE, which aims to provide a framework for the investigation of these phenomena and their implications across technical, sociotechnical and socioeconomic domains as the CAS evolve over time.

The drivers of change vary in scale and intensity across national boundaries and some understanding of these is necessary to fully appreciate the issues. Aging infrastructure, capacity constraints and the need to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions are the most obvious drivers but more complex issues have arisen from deregulation in many countries. This has resulted in a form of balkanisation that tends to cause additional stress to the legacy electricity grid, which has a structure based on centralised command and management of large scale generating plant, long-range high voltage transmission and local low voltage distribution networks. This structure implies expensive standby capacity to meet peak loads; high capital cost and long lead-times for new plant; economic inefficiency due to deadweight losses, external costs and imperfect ‘top-down’ regulation; vulnerability to energy security threats of various kinds; and rigidity to beneficial change such as the increased exploitation of distributed energy resources (DERs) and the development of more flexible and sophisticated energy services that might lead to greater energy efficiency. Recognition of the Smart Grid as an example of a CAS evolving in the technosphere represents a great opportunity to gain important insights into the emergence of self-organisation and how such systems evolve, in scenarios with extremely high relevance for a range of vital policy issues affecting energy security and carbon reduction

Duration of the meeting 1 Day, 5th September, 2012

  • Presentation of CASCADE modelling, Multi-Agent, Spatial modelling of Energy supply and demand
  • Presentation from EIFER (European Institute for Energy Research - Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)
  • Invited contribution from the satellite meeting last year

Please note : All participants at the satellite are expected to register for ECCS12

Call for Presentation Abstracts:

The workshop will accept 6 abstracts for presentation. Abstracts, which should not exceed 300 words, should be submitted by 15th July. Papers should be submitted by 1st June. They will be evaluated and selected by the Workshop Organising Committee with blind refereeing. Submissions should be sent to: https://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=eccs12satellites

It is intended that, subject to the usual refereeing procedures, papers from this workshop will be published in a special issue of the journal E:CO

Finalised agenda

The finalised agenda for the workshop is now available. Please download the timetable

Submission timetable:

  • 15th July - Submit Abstracts for presentations
  • 1st August – notification of acceptance to deliver presentation at the workshop

Please note that submission is now closed

Submitted papers should address one or more of the following topics:

  • Infrastructural networks structure and evolution.
  • Operational behaviour and catastrophic dynamics of infrastructural networks.
  • Multi-scaling and hierarchical characterization.
  • Meta-complexities and infrastructural networks interdependencies.
  • Biology-inspired resilient networks and metaphors.
  • Aggregate and agent-based modelling of impacts and dynamic processes in infrastructural networks.

Please note that submission is now closed

Main questions:

  1. Sustainable energy will require much more reliance on spatially distributed, intermittent generating capacity. This will require an important and increasingly active role for the Grid. It must become ‘Smart’. But the internet allowed the interaction of existing complex systems and triggered a wide range of damaging emergent phenomena ranging from instability in traffic routing to computer virus propagation. Such phenomena would be intolerable in electricity supply systems so the challenge for complexity science is to identify potentially hazardous emergent properties and mitigation measures so that there can be confidence that the systems being built will not exhibit undesirable properties?
  2. Can we develop models that will represent the learning and behaviour change of actors involved in supply and demand with regard to the different technologies of electricity generation as well as the Smart Grid. What policies and governance frameworks will be necessary for future sustainable energy systems? How do interactions between agents influence such behavioural change and how might they be modelled, predicted and (potentially) influenced for heterogeneous agents?
  3. How will grid management have to be changed to deal with new, spatially distributed, more intermittent energy sources? Instead of the old ‘top down’ approach it will require more facilitation than direct control, as sources at all different levels of the network operate somewhat independently.
  4. Sustainable, low carbon energy production and distribution will require spatially distributed, intermittent resources and that energy demand and supply interacts (successfully) at many levels through sensors and effectors and indirectly through technical and human-machine interfaces and through the operation of market systems. How much more complex should the market systems of this new grid be from those of our current system? (e.g. with consumer-producer agents selecting a portfolio of technologies with varying characteristics in addition to any purchases from other producers, so as to balance cost, risk, and other considerations).
  5. The CAS concept implies that very approximate representations with a small subset of entities, or a focus on constituent subsystems with simplified dynamics would risk failure to model the emergent properties that may be looked for in the real world system, as by their nature these global phenomena arise from a plethora of local interactions. However, multi-scale problems of the kind to be studied here call for tractable approaches if they are not to be thwarted by complexity of the computational kind. What trade-offs are necessary/acceptable?

Organising committee

The organizers are Mark Rylatt from De Montfort University, UK (Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development) and Peter Allen from Cranfield Unversity, UK (Complex Systems Research Centre) and members of the CASCADE Project.

This satellite is being organised in conjunction with EIFER (European Institute for Energy Research - Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)

We shall also include participants from the previous Satellite Workshop in Vienna.

eccs_satellite.txt · Last modified: 11/09/2012 11:47 by cascade     Back to top

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