back to all publications

Exploring the Emergence of Renewable Energy Grids in Developing Countries with Agent Based Models

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date

This work presents novel Agent-Based Models that permit flexible conceptualization of the electrification efforts in developing countries. It captures the interacting technological, environmental, and social layers that make up the system and value judgments, preferences and path dependence of decisions made while creating development plans. Reflecting these factors is key as it expands traditional tools used in electrification planning. The work starts through the presentation of a clean-slate scenario with no existing infrastructure or fossil fuel use. This is an appropriate representation of less industrialized countries with large unelectrified areas and concerns for climate change and fuels’ cost and security. In the case of the clean-slate scenario the electricity delivery infrastructure’s cost depends on the level of electricity demand, the available renewable energy potential, and development strategies chosen by stakeholders. In cases with high demand and low electricity potential, a centralized strategy based on renewable resources chosen with the Resource Centrality Index results in the most economic delivery system. On the other hand, high resources and low demand call for a decentralized strategy where communities can get involved in development decisions. Increasing the available resources dramatically lowers the cost of the delivery system and increases the options for inclusive strategies. The case study of Liberia, West Africa, is presented to further develop the tools. Liberia is shown to have enough renewable energy potential to fulfill its rural residential demand. Levelized costs of electricity from decentralized renewable energy projects based on biomass and mini or micro-hydro technologies are within the ability and willingness to pay of rural Liberians. Through the Liberian case study the work shows opportunities for use in multi-objective development where the value-judgments of stakeholders are captured. Objectives such as increasing jobs, creating economic flows within communities, providing equality of development within regions of the country, and minimizing economic costs are evaluated. The model is shown to be a creative and robust tool to plan electrification strategies when considering these goals. The results show how multiple objectives can be used in planning scenarios to ensure ability to pay of rural Liberians and other desired stakeholder benefits.

Research Areas
Energy Systems

Africa, Agent-Based Modeling, Developing Countries, Emergence, Policy Planning, Renewable Energy

Publication Type
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Alfaro, Jose (2014) “Exploring the Emergence of Renewable Energy Grids in Developing Countries with Agent Based Models.” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor. 1-130.