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AGREA - Analysis Group for Regional Energy Alternatives
MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment
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Select Papers

Below is a selection of papers from over the years. Larger, and more detailed, reports appear on the AGREA webite. Included in this selection are paper that address key issues from the past fifteen year, and how scenario analysis can be used to identify robust solutions, and inform and elevate policy debates.

Topics covered include the application of "scenario-based multi-attribute tradeoff analysis" to map out the option-space for future electricity infrastructures (CETP-Shandong), to help energy markets identify and develop policies which coordiante day-to-day market actvities with long-term competitive investments, and which incorporate environmental externalities into the evaluation of energy portfolios under scientific uncertainty and political rivaly.

Current Issues in Evaluating Future Energy Pathways


Future Electricity Supplies: Redefining
    Efficiency from a Systems Perspective

      Connors S., Martin K., Adams M. and Kern E.
      (LFEE Working Paper: LFEE-WP-04-005, Jun.2004, 12 pgs)
           (download.. 868k )

This paper presents some of key insights from the EPA Avoided Emissions from Solar Photovoltaics Project. It focuses not on solar energy, but the operational (load level) dynamcis of BOTH renewables and fossil generators. Only by looking at hourly generator loading—determined by market conditions, electricity demand and ramp rates for fossil, and renewable resource availability for solar and wind—can the actual units being "backed off" by renewables and energy efficiency be indentified, and accurate assessments of avoided emissions calculated.

Through this hourly analysis we found that for fossil-dominated power pools, roughly one-third of fossil unit operating hours are below 60% of rated output, with impacts on energy efficiency, emissions rates and electricity market dynamics. This suggests that there is a whole new class of energy options, mostly energy storage, which may improve the performance of fossil units.

Other insights arise from the need to better understand transmission and distribution losses (in space and time) to better account for the benefits of distributed resources (solar, end-use efficiency, etc.) The principal conclusion is that we need to look much more at the operational dynamics among ALL energy technologies, both supply and demand in order to truly assess their performance, both individually and collectively.


CMI Centre for Energy Security
    Comments to the DTI Energy Review

      Connors S., Nuttall W., Marks D, Aldridge H. (Apr.2006, 7 pgs)
           (download.. 168k )

This paper, submitted to the UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as part of its Energy Review, identifies the elements of a robust strategy that will allow the UK to simultaneously address its long-term energy security, environmental and social objectives. While there are may aspects of "energy security," such as the security of energy supplies (oil and natural gas geopolitics), and the security of nuclear materials associated with nuclear power and the fuel cycle, this paper focuses on how we can evolve the energy infrastructure over time to reduce consumers's exposure to energy security risks, lower greenhouse gases, and reduce market volatility.

To pursue these three strategic tracks (left list below), a much higher level of detail is needed. It is needed to maximize the utilisation of renewable resources, and to identify high-value opportunities for energy-efficiency and energy network investments.

Successful implementation of these three integrated tracks require a new definition of energy efficiency encompassing not only the conventional "energy conversion" efficiency, but the efficiency of "smart technologies" which shift their operational protocols based upon level of utilization (hybrid cars turning their engines off at stop lights are the most common example of this), and coupling together conversion cycles or multiple energy services (combined cycle power plants, and combined heat and power as examples). This is the list on the right.

  • Aggressive Energy Efficiency
  • Diversify Domestically
  • Modernize the Network
  • Energy Conversion Efficiency
  • Energy Utilization Efficiency
  • Integrated Energy Efficiency

Using Tradeoff Analysis to Identify Robust Strategies


Informing decision makers and identifying
    niche opportunities for windpower

      Use of multiattribute trade off analysis to
      evaluate non-dispatchable resources

      Connors, S (Energy Policy, Vol.24 No.2 pp.165-176, 1996, 12 pgs)
           (download.. 896k )

Drawing from scenarios of the New England AREA (Analyzing Regional Electricity Alternatives) project, this paper provides a brief overview of the tradeoff analysis approach, and the demonstates its application to the New England power system. Scenarios with and without windpower, energy efficiency, and varying degree existing fossil unit NOx retrofits are evaluated across a range natural gas costs.

In addition to showing which strategies are "cheapest and cleanest" across fuel cost uncertainties, a sensitivity analysis for how much natural gas costs would have to increase, or windpower capital costs would have to decrease, to become cost-equivalent to the "least cost" strategy is performed.


Electric Sector Simulation: A Tradeoff
    Analysis of Shandong Province's Electric Service Options

      Connors S., Schenler W., Cheng C.C., Hansen C., Gheorghe A.
      (in Integrated Assesment of Sustainable Energy Systems in China,
         Springer 2003, 68 pgs)
           (download.. 656k )

This is a final draft version of the Chapter that appears in the AGS Series book. It gives a detailed description of the tradeoff analysis approach, with a full implementation of the methodology to the Shandong electric sector. Options targeting new generation technology choices and mixes, options aimed at reducing emissions from existing coal-fired power plant, and demand-management options are combined into 1,009 unique strategies. These are then evaluated across three levels of electricity demand growth, and numerous fuel cost uncertainties.

The results of the scenario analysis were surprising. Significant SO2 and NOx reductions could only be achieved by targeting old, dirty power plants. New, cleaner generation technologies and end-use efficieny did not displace old power plants directly, and so could stop emissions from increasing, but could do little to reduce emissions. Energy efficiency and non-CO2 generating options (in this case nuclear) were necessary to reduce CO2 emissions. So, an integrated strategy was necessary to achieve cost, service level and environmental goals.

Integrating Long-Term Factors into Competitive Electricity Markets

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
      The End of IRP and the Role of Market-Based Environmental
        Regulation in a Restructured Electric Industry

      Connors S., O'Neill E. (Proceedings of the USAEE 17th North American Conf., Boston MA, Oct.1996, 10 pgs)
           (download.. 64k )

This paper presents scenarios for the New England electric power sector that move beyond diverse investment portfolios to include a "cap and trade" system for NOx. The scenarios impose a summertime NOx emissions cap for Southern New England, and then evaluate the cost and emissions performance for all of New England across a broader range of emissions.

Competition, Coordination and Compliance:
      The Role of Integrated Resource Planning in a Competitive Industry
      Connors S. (Proceedings of the NARUC 5th National Conf. on IRP, Kalispell MT, May 1994, 13 pgs)
           (download.. 48k )

This paper discusses the role of planning in a competitive electricity industry. Well functioning competitive markets are highly coordinated. Written on the eve of electricity competition, it discusses the value of having a long-term industry vision as a way to inform market actors, and design policies which attain long-term balance within the industry.

Select Papers from the "Externality Wars" of the Early 1990s

Externality Adders and Cost-Effective Emissions Reductions:
      Using Tradeoff Analysis to Promote Environmental Improvement and Risk Mitigation
      Connors, S. (Proceeding of the 55th Annual American Power Conf., Chicago IL, Apr.1993, 6 pgs)
           (download.. 48k )

The inclusion of "environmental externalities" in utility-decision making was a very hot topic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially since so little scientific information regarding damage costs after environmental regulations were met was available. (That bit hasn't changed much.) This paper blends the externality debate with "no regrets" concepts, using scenario analysis to look at blended strategies and multiple costs and benefits.

Side-Stepping the Adder:
      Planning for Least-Social-Cost Electric Service
      Connors S. (Proceedings of the 4th National Conf. on IRP, Burlington VT, Sep.1992, 18 pgs)
           (download.. 60k )

This mainly non-technical (or at least non-numeric) paper describes key concepts of "least cost planning" from direct cost and social cost perspectives. By combining the concepts with the pareto-like tradeoff frontiers used by AGREA, an alternative approach to incorporating environmental externalities into electricity planning is put forward.

Energy and Sustainable Development


Issues in Energy
    and Sustainable Development

      Connors S. (AGS Mapping Project White Paper,
          Report No. EL 98-004, Jun.1998, 14 pgs)
           (download.. 56k )

This paper focuses on the broader issues of sustainable development, and how these issues map to the long-term management and performance of regional energy systems. Transitions (or Pathways) to a sustainable energy system are then discussed, including the role of policies and how they effect the development, deployment and use of cleaner energy technologies.

Of particular note is the Appendix that discussed scopes and levels of knowledge, and the need to develop and sustains a dialogue among decision makers that not only move the debate from problems and issues, to one of solutions, but does so in a manner in which implementation of those solutions can occur.

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03 Aug 06 © 2006 S.R. Connors