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Multi-Criteria Analysis in Sustainable Energy Planning: a Quick Review

Sean Salleh 28 Aug 2013 Energy and environment

Energy planning in general may allow for simple cost-benefit analysis; however, sustainable energy planning with the multiple factors and tradeoffs involved requires a different approach. Multi-criteria analysis is a natural part of the process in many cases, and a number of techniques have been applied so far. Many of them can be realized using Analytica, which gives modelers the added advantage of being able to switch rapidly between deterministic and stochastic approaches by selecting appropriate probability distributions.

Table comparing criteria for different energy sources Image source: gracacarvalho.eu

Weighted Sum and Weighted Product Methods

When these relate to cost-benefit analyses, relatively good performance against one criterion can erase relatively bad performance compared to another. Sustainability may not be apparent or even exist in globally positive results from such models. The simple additive weighted (SAW) model is for example essentially a cost-benefit model, as is the multiattribute utility theory (MAUT) model. AHP (analytic hierarchy process) also uses weighted attributes and rankings. TOPSIS (Technique for Order of Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution) allows for compensatory aggregation: it weights each criterion and calculates a geometric distance between each scenario and the ideal solution. VIKOR (from the Serbian for Multicriteria Optimization and Compromise Solution) offers a similar approach of compromise solution finding for decision problems with conflicting objectives.

Multi-Criteria Analysis Models Allowing for Greater Control of Sustainability

These models include PROMETHEE (Preference ranking organization method for enrichment evaluation) and ELECTRE III (from the French for ELimination and Choice Expressing REality ). PROMOTHEE uses multi-criteria analysis based on six kinds of criteria with partial compensation, while ELECTRE allows for solutions or scenarios to be vetoed if they cross over pre-defined thresholds. ENE-MCA is an example of a model specifically built for sustainable planning. Presented by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the Energy Multi-Criteria Analysis Tool uses a wide collection of energy future scenarios to let decision-makers see the effect of prioritizing four major factors: climate, energy security, health and costs.

Approaches Based on Analytica

Although the techniques above are far from a complete collection (game theory and fuzzy methods also have contributions to make), they can already be put into action using Analytica. This has the benefit of giving initial appreciations of sustainable energy planning based on multi-criteria analysis. More advanced models can then be developed from this with Analytica. Examples of enhancements include the integration into the model of adaptive agents, as well as immediate factor importance analysis.

Application to Sustainable Energy Planning

A model for sustainable energy planning still requires input data, as well as a structure to calculate or simulate developments and conclusions.  The table above of sustainability indicators from Naim Afgan and Maria Carvalho gives an example of initial (unweighted) data that could form the basis of such input. Further guidelines for relevant sustainable energy indicators include general quality of air, water, soil and forests, as well as waste generation and management.

If you’d like to know how Analytica, the modeling software from Lumina, can help you model using multiple, non-inter-compensable criteria, then try a thirty day free evaluation of Analytica to see what it can do for you.

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Sean Salleh

Sean Salleh is a data scientist with experience in guiding marketing strategy from building marketing mix models, forecasting models, scenario planning models, and algorithms. He is passionate about consumer technologies and resource management. He has master's degrees in Operations Research from University of California Irvine and Mathematics from Northeastern University.

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