Smart urban energy systems
This research is aimed at socio-technical designs and business models that facilitate the development of smart urban energy systems, for example in the city of Amsterdam.
Smart energy systems comprise ICT-enabled low voltage electricity grids, smart meters are the ‘gatekeepers’ and advanced technologies monitor and control the use of energy inside people’s homes. However, there are serious concerns related to moral values like privacy, security, reliability, or affordability. To address these concerns and avoid conflicts after implementation, there is a strong urgency to take ethical values into account when developing smart grid technologies.
The design of smart energy systems is highly challenging. They are complex socio-technical systems in which technological innovations co-evolve with social development. This process is path-dependent, meaning that choices made early on limit the possibilities later on in the process. Furthermore such socio-technical developments are loaded with value judgements and conflicts which lead to acceptability challenges. In short, challenges in implementing smart energy systems revolve around:
- Technical choices (for example data security levels and algorithms);
- Institutional choices (such as ownership issues and regulated market issues);
- Implications for ethical values (for example privacy, security, reliability and affordability).
Technological choices cannot be made without properly understanding the revolving institutional and ethical constraints.
The research activities will lead to the following results:
- Identification of the ethical, social and epistemic values at stake for smart energy systems;
- Identification of possible value conflicts;
- Assessment of the societal value of smart urban energy system in relation to the different ethical convictions of stakeholders and to technological-institutional designs for sustainable energy systems;
- Innovative organizational and business models for the development, societal acceptability, and use of smart grid platforms in support of moral values.
The project builds on a framework for normative evaluation of energy systems, created during an earlier NWO-MVI project of project leader prof. Künneke (named ‘Wind Energy on the North Sea’) and results from another NWO-MVI project on the influence of stakeholder networks and platform flexibility for smart meter acceptance (named ‘Acceptable Smart Grids’).
The approach of this project is multidisciplinary:
- To identify relevant societal values the researchers build on the ‘capability approach’, an ethical framework which allows them to go beyond traditional financial and utilitarian methods for evaluations of large infrastructures, which rely on individual preferences and interests.
- For the development of organizational and innovative business models the researchers build on institutional economics, which allows them to relate ethical values to institutional and technical arrangements. It also makes it possible to explore the dependency between system acceptability and related regulations.
To explore and evaluate the consequences of possible value conflicts for the institutional and technical stability and reliability of possible energy systems the researchers use a quantitative method, namely Agent Based Modeling (ABM). This approach is taken because ethical values and functionalities are not static, but co-evolve with the system to which they relate. In this modeling exercise the capability approach determines the degrees of freedom of the actors. This is innovative, as it is formalized for the first time.rids, path-dependency, privacy, privacy, security, reliability, affordability, smart energy systems, business models, smart grid platforms
smart meters, smart grids, path-dependency, privacy, privacy, security, reliability, affordability, smart energy systems, business models, smart grid platformsOfficial project title: