Strategic energy planning under uncertainty

Various countries and communities are defining or rethinking their energy strategy driven by concerns for climate change and security of energy supply. Energy models, often based on optimization, can support this decision-making process. In the current energy planning practice, most models are deterministic, i.e. they do not consider uncertainty and rely on long-term forecasts for important parameters. However, over the long time horizons of energy planning, forecasts often prove to be inaccurate, which can lead to overcapacity and underutilization of the installed technologies. Although this shows the need of considering uncertainty in energy planning, uncertainty is to date seldom integrated in energy models. The main barriers to a wider penetration of uncertainty are i) the complexity and computational expense of energy models; ii) the issue of quantifying input uncertainties and determining their nature; iii) the selection of appropriate methods for incorporating uncertainties in energy models. To overcome these limitations, this thesis answers the following research question How does uncertainty impact strategic energy planning and how can we facilitate the integration of uncertainty in the energy modeling practice? with four novel methodological contributions. First, a mixed-integer linear programming modeling framework for large-scale energy systems is presented. Given the energy demand, the efficiency and cost of energy conversion technologies, the availability and cost of resources, the model identifies the optimal investment and operation strategies to meet the demand and minimize the total annual cost or greenhouse gas emissions. The concise formulation and low computational time make it suitable for uncertainty applications. Second, a method is introduced to characterize input uncertainties in energy planning models. Third, the adoption of a two-stage global sensitivity analysis approach is proposed to deal with the large number of uncertain parameters in energy planning models. Fourth, a complete robust optimization framework is developed to incorporate uncertainty in optimization-based energy models, allowing to consider uncertainty both in the objective function and in the other constraints. To evaluate the impact of uncertainty, the presentation of the methods is systematically associated to their validation on the real case study of the Swiss energy system. In this context, a novelty is represented by the consideration of all uncertain parameters in the analysis. The main finding is that uncertainty dramatically impacts energy planning decisions. The results reveal that uncertainty levels vary significantly for different parameters, and that the way in which uncertainty is characterized has a strong impact on the results. In the case study, economic parameters, such as the discount rate and the price of imported resources, are the most impacting inputs; also, parameters which are commonly considered as fixed assumptions in energy models emerge as critical factors, which shows that it is crucial to avoid an a priori exclusion of parameters from the analysis. The energy strategy drastically changes if uncertainty is considered. In particular, it is demonstrated that robust solutions, characterized by a higher penetration of renewables and of efficient technologies, can offer more reliability and stability compared to investment plans made without accounting for uncertainty, at the price of a marginally higher cost.

Maréchal, François
Bierlaire, Michel
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis7961-1

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 Record created 2017-10-16, last modified 2020-06-08

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