Erb Faculty Director, Joe Arvai was published in Environmental Science & Technology

A Decision Support Framework for Developing Regional Energy Strategies

In an effort to reduce “carbon pollution” as well as prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan called for changes to be made to the nation’s energy system. This call to action, put the energy industry at the heart of a national effort to meaningfully address the national and global risks posed by climate change. In addition to focusing on alternative portfolios of different fuels and power-generation technologies, researchers and advisory panels have urged that changes to the nation’s energy system be based on a decision-making framework that both incorporates stakeholders and accounts for real-world resource, supply and demand constraints. But, to date, research and development on such a framework has proven elusive.

Research led by the Erb Institute’s Joe Árvai focused on the development and testing of a potential decision support framework that combines elements from structured decision-making with energy portfolio analysis; these are methods that have been used independently to elicit preferences in complex decision contexts. This hybrid framework aimed to (1) provide necessary background information to both planners at energy utilities and consumers regarding the development of coupled climate-energy strategies; (2) account for peopel’s values and objectives; (3) allow for the construction of bespoke energy portfolios bounded by real-world supply and demand constraints; and (4) provide a more rigorous basis for addressing tradeoffs. Results show that this framework was user-friendly, led to significant increases in users’ knowledge about energy systems and, importantly, led to more internally consistent decisions. Such a framework may serve as a suitable template for supporting decisions about energy transitions in both the private and public sectors, in the United States and abroad.

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