Sustainability is a complex science. Much of the world is trying to find a way toward a sustainable future by retrofitting the infrastructures and systems we have created so far. But what would it look like if we could start from scratch? Many areas in the world have the opportunity, or barrier, of having to start from zero to create new pathways that can teach the rest of the world how to arrive at a sustainable system.
This work seeks user friendly tools that can be used for policy planning in the development of electricity grids based on renewable energy. Using the science and tools of Complex systems, models are presented that investigate the emergence of new grids in a clean slate scenario with no existing infrastructure. The interactions of the technical, social, and economic layers that make up the system are considered. Special emphasis is made to provide trade-off analyses that capture the way decision-makers' value judgements and the path dependence involved in development affect outcomes beyond econometrics.
The models are showcased through their application towards the development of a renewable energy rural master plan for Liberia, West Africa, the least electrified country in the world. The result is a trade off analysis for stakeholders in Liberia to consider possible fuel and location portfolios, levelized costs of electricity, job creation, and economic stimulus for the rural areas.