Collaborative ResearchCollaborative Research

Active Flagship Research Projects


Information and Decision Architectures for Robustness, Resilience, and Risk Mitigation in Power Grids

Investigators at MIT: Professor Munther A. Dahleh, Dr. Mardavij Roozbehani, Professor Asu Ozdaglar, and Professor Konstantin Turitsyn

Investigators at Masdar Institute: Professors Vinod Khadkikar, Khaled Elbassioni, Mohamed Shawky El Moursi and Jacob Crandall


Power systems in Abu Dhabi and the GCC countries are expected to evolve rapidly over the next few decades to incorporate new and existing technologies in power generation, demand response, and grid operation via sophisticated sensing, communication, and distributed control. As a result, local and regional energy networks evolve to large-scale, complex, and highly-optimized interconnected systems with more exogenous and endogenous uncertainty, and more feedback loops to mitigate the uncertainties. While such systems may perform well under normal operating conditions, they can exhibit fragility in response to certain large or small disturbances that can directly lead to, or increase the probability of extremely disruptive events including large blackouts and cascades of failures. Such fragility in interconnected systems is characterized by systemic risk or endogenous risk, which, in power systems, arises from the dynamic and complex interactions that exist across the physical layer (the grid, loads, generators) and the multiple coexisting decision-makers within both the cyber layer (communication and control mechanisms) and the energy market layer.

Indeed, ensuring the security of the grid and robustness against small disturbances and resilience against large attacks and rare events is one of the concerns and highest priorities of TRANSCO, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA), in charge of developing, operating and maintaining the high voltage power transmission and bulk water transmission networks within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Successful design of such a robust and resilient energy network, however, requires a holistic system design approach, and far more than robustness at the component and subsystem levels. Nonetheless, the foundational science, methodology, and unified framework that can address these grand challenges does not exist today.

This project brings together an interdisciplinary team of experts with an outstanding track record to develop the foundational theory for understanding the sources of fragility and risk in power systems and energy networks, real-time monitoring and characterization of distance to failure, and developing early detection and control strategies for preventing costly events or a cascade of failures in networks with significant amounts of distributed and renewable energy, storage, and price responsive consumers. Given the expected rapid development of the energy landscape in the Abu Dhabi region as outlined in, and the importance of a secure and reliable energy infrastructure to the economic development of the region, an aggressive research agenda in this area as outlined in this proposal is both necessary and timely.


The government of Abu Dhabi has announced a plan to substantially increase its use of renewable energy by the year 2020. To achieve this goal, the current power grid must be upgraded, likely by using a large number of distributed and networked controllers, storage, and demand response mechanisms. The challenges associated with high penetration of renewable resources and the increased risk of large blackouts and cascaded failures are already threatening the security and reliability of power systems in other regions of the world including Germany and the United States, where both the frequency and size of large blackouts have been on the rise. In the absence of a carefully designed system architecture and the associated operational mechanisms, the Abu Dhabi grids may suffer from decreased robustness and extreme sensitivity to disturbances that may lead to costly cascaded failures. This issue is already articulated in the Abu Dhabi vision 2030 for integrating renewable energy sources, which emphasizes that high quality research should be applied on the ADWEA power system in order to prepare the grid for accommodating intermittent resources.

Indeed, one of the Co-PIs of this project, Dr. Mohamed Shawky El Moursi, has worked at TRANSCO for three years. He was involved in developing the master plan up to the year 2020 for TRANSCO network with TEPCO (Japan). Based on this experience, the network security is considered among the high interest of TRANSCO, especially with the plan for integrating nuclear power as well as renewable energy systems. Currently, there are few locations at the TRANSCO network that suffer from high short circuit currents exceeding the interruption capacity of the circuit breakers. Mitigation of such high fault currents are presently done by reconfiguring the network topology by splitting it into subsystems, imposing limitation on generation units and opening power transformers at low tension side. These operational measures are indeed feedback mechanisms for reconfigurability, which can induce new fragilities and significantly affect the system performance, security, reliability and stability. Also, sustained inter area oscillations are encountered due to the interconnection between UAE- Saudi Arabia and UAE-Saltant of Oman. This may lead to partial or total blackout for the ADWEA power system. The project addresses these issues by taking a systematic approach based on new mathematical models, identification of most valuable information, real-time control, and verification and validation for ensuring the security and stability of the ADWEA power system.