Workshop Smart Energy Grids and Complexity Science, Petten (NL), 25 Jun 2012

Growing concerns over energy sustainability, security of power supply, and market competitiveness — and the resulting need to integrate increasing shares of renewable energy and dispersed energy resources — are impacting the energy system operation and architecture.

Smart energy grids represent one of the key means for the decarbonisation and decentralisation of the electricity system. Their implementation will change the way we live our lives and interact socially and culturally. In this scenario, the business and social actors in the energy landscape will need to dramatically adapt their behaviours, strategies and means of producing, delivering, storing, and consuming energy.

A smart energy grid is not only a diverse set of dynamic, distributed energy suppliers, it is also an energy system which connects smart (i.e., responsive, energy efficient, and variable) users to sustainable (i.e., low carbon, renewable) energy sources. And the grid itself is smart whenever it is able to modify its output, and able to monitor, control and meter the energy demands of consumers in a regulated and fair way.
In many ways, the concept of the smart grid can be extended to other (virtual and physical) complex networks characterising the urban environment, such as the transport of water, fuels, wastes, passengers and packages. Which of the aspects of complexity science, characterizing a smart energy grid, are potentially applicable to these other networks?

In order to understand the complexity of future smart grids, there is the need to move focus and attention from a component oriented to an interaction oriented view of the electric power system. The goal of this systemic understanding is to identify tools and techniques for optimal decision-making that will enable society to achieve its energy, environmental, economic and social goals. The framework that should be developed will enable the identification of emerging problems and will provide new solutions and approaches.

In this context, a Workshop on Smart Grids and Complexity Science (Leaflet of the event herehas been organised by

- Joint Research Centre, Institute for Energy & Transport

- MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Energy Initiative

- Politecnico di Torino, Energy Department

- University of Cambridge, Electricity Policy Research Group

To further explore the background and the various areas of expertise some talks presented and discussed relating to:

  • The practical application of complex science to energy (electric) systems within a broader context including economic shifts and volatility, consumer behaviour, weather and climatic uncertainty, and the growing need to address climate adaptation including emergency response. Furthermore a path was proposed towards the application of complexity science in these areas through research and explicative applications;
  • The verification of current developments in related fields;
  • Analysis of the links/synergies between different approaches;
  • Consideration of the possibility of establishing a working group of experts, research institutions, stakeholders, policy decision makers with different backgrounds and expertise; ranging from the social sciences to power systems engineering, and from ICT to economics. The aim would be to develop and share a common systemic view of the problems.

The full report of the event is available for download here.