Improving Rural Electricity System Planning: An agent-based model for stakeholder engagement and decision making

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Energy planners in regions with low rates of electrification face complex and high-risk challenges in selecting appropriate generating technologies and grid centralization. To better inform such processes, we present an Agent-Based Model (ABM) that facilitates engagement with stakeholders. This approach evaluates long-term plans using the cost of delivered electricity, resource mix, jobs and economic stimulus created within communities, and decentralized generation mix of the system, with results provided in a spatially-resolved format. This approach complements existing electricity planning methods (e.g., Integrated Resource Planning) by offering novel evaluation criteria based on typical stakeholder preferences.

We demonstrate the utility of this approach with a case study based on a “blank-slate” scenario, which begins without generation or transmission infrastructure, for the long-term rural renewable energy plans of Liberia, West Africa. We consider five electrification strategies: prioritizing larger populations, deploying large resources, creating jobs, providing economic stimulus, and step-wise cost minimization. Through the case study we demonstrate how this approach can be used to engage stakeholders, supplement more established energy planning tools, and illustrate the effects of stakeholder decisions and preferences on the performance of the system.

Research Areas: 
Developing countries
Agent-based modeling
policy planning
rural electrification
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Energy Policy
Date Published: 
February, 2017
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Full Citation: 
Alfaro, J.A., S. Miller, J. Johnson, and R.R. Riolo. (2017) “Improving rural electricity system planning: An agent-based model for stakeholder engagement and decision making.” Energy Policy 101: 317-331.
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