TERSE: Techno-Economic framework for Resilient and Sustainable Electrification

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Abstract

Rural electrification is fundamental for the social and economic development and well-being of developing countries, as it supports the development of vital critical infrastructures (e.g. communication and transportation) and it provides energy to critical services to peoples' quality of everyday life, such as home appliances, health and water supply. The lack or limited and highly unreliable access to electricity still remains one of the key challenges that rural and remote communities face in these countries. In order though for the electrification to go beyond lightning, it is critical to develop energy networks that are sustainable, cost-effective, and scalable, as well as resilient, particularly in areas that are frequently exposed to natural hazards, such as floods, monsoons, etc.

In this context, the ambition of this project is to develop a novel holistic techno-economic framework for supporting and enabling the decision, policy and regulatory making towards the design of transformative energy networks in developing countries. This holistic framework will be supported by the development of an options portfolio for sustainable electrification, including a mixture of infrastructure solutions (e.g. building new or upgrading existing infrastructure) and emerging low-carbon distributed energy resources that will focus on the development of sustainable microgrids (both grid-connected and off-grid). Further, integrated system simulation models will be developed to analyse the vulnerability and quantify the risk and resilience profile of these energy solutions to natural hazards and extreme weather. This is is highly timely given the latest evidence of the impact of such events worldwide and also highly critical if the rural communities are to withstand and quickly recover from such catastrophic events. Following these analyses, stochastic optimization planning techniques will be developed to support the optimal design of these energy networks, considering transformative energy technologies, to maximize the impact on the well-being of local communities.

Building on this last point, the research team has developed a well-structured user-engagement strategy, bridging to wider socio-economic aspects of communities facing electrification challenges. The aims of this strategy are to get an in-depth understanding of the electricity needs of rural communities in the partner countries (China and Malaysia), enable their active role in the project and provide briefing and training sessions on the use of the new energy technologies to be applied in these communities. The UK and overseas research teams will jointly work with the local industrial partners to facilitate this active involvement of remote villages, communities and their local authorities.

This project will aim to complement and further strengthen the current electrification plans of the partner countries, i.e. Malaysia and China. The research team will work closely with Sarawak Energy and other authorities in Malaysia to review and improve its Rural Power Supply Scheme that was formulated in 2015, as well as evaluate and improve the design, operability and maintenance planning of existing microgrids in Zhoushan islands, China, which also serve as excellent testbeds for validating the simulation models developed by the project. Within this context, this project will also aim to develop recommendations for changes and improvements in standards, regulatory and policy-making frameworks. We will aim to make the key findings and recommendations of this work of generic applicability and validity to accommodate its international development importance. This would also be of UK national importance, where building sustainable energy networks for reducing its carbon footprint, while being resilient to extreme weather (e.g., the storms of 1987, 2007 and 2015 which resulted in major power outages) is key for safeguarding the social and economic well-being of the country.

Planned Impact

Through the development of novel stochastic simulation and optimization models for rural electrification planning and their validation in collaboration with the project academic and industrial partners, this project will be of significant timeliness, relevance and appropriateness to a wide range of stakeholders. This includes system operators, energy producers, manufacturers, policy makers and regulators which will benefit from our research by getting a comprehensive quantitative understanding of emerging energy technologies and a set of engineering and policy recommendations for changes at different levels, including planning, design, operation, monitoring, and maintenance practices and standards (forming the basis for ISO standards) for rural electrification. Such knowledge would benefit the long-term operational viability of the newly designed rural energy networks and contribute to measuring their potential long-term impact in developing countries. The proposed work may also lead to recognition that such support through a formal regulatory and commercial framework would increase revenue streams to those new and transformative technologies that can provide low-carbon energy services, while contributing to resilience under natural hazards. The research team will ensure that the research outcomes will be of generic applicability and validity and will also be internationally disseminated (through, for example, the relevant IEEE Task Force on understanding and measuring power systems resilience with which the research team maintains strong links, talks and panels at world-leading relevant international conferences and publication of research articles in high impact journals) to support and strengthen the international development importance of this research. This work will also be of great importance to the industrial partners and stakeholders of the project. This includes key partners in Malaysia, where the proposed research will support the improvement of the Rural Power Supply Scheme that was formulated in 2015, contributing towards achieving energy security to remote communities. In China, this project will provide vital insights on the criticality of the energy products manufactured by Clenergy (including PV-mounting products and solutions for residential, commercial and utility scale customers) and how can these technologies be utilized to the benefit of remote communities in China. In Chile (as an external project partner), the research team will continue the fruitful collaboration with leading Chilean Universities and stakeholders (including University of Chile, Pontificia Universidad Catolica and Chilean system operator) to understand how low-carbon distributed energy resources can contribute to the energy sustainability and resilience of rural regions. To facilitate the active and constructive knowledge exchange with the project industrial partners and stakeholders, several forms of interaction have been planned by the research team, including advisory board meetings, regular physical and web-conferenced meetings and technical workshops. Appropriate socio-economic and engineering quantitative metrics and indicators will be jointly developed with the project LMIC industrial and academic partners for measuring the impact of the research proposed in the LMIC context, with focus on the improvement of the social and economic well-being of the rural communities and the long-term usability and financial support of the proposed energy networks. Within this context, the research team has developed a thorough user-engagement strategy which will enable the active participation of the local partners and communities to the design of the new energy networks from the initial stages of the project, which will contribute to the social acceptance and adoption of the proposed energy technologies. This would ensure that the proposed energy networks can facilitate the energy needs of local communities, going beyond home lightning.

Publications

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Description Our very preliminary research within the recently started project already indicate that distributed energy systems might play a key role in developing optimal technology portfolios that are both low-cost and resilient. This is of particular relevance in ODA countries and in isolated areas or even islands (as our case study applications in Malaysia and China), where the development of microgrids could avoid costly and unreliable grid connections or use of alternative, more expensive and less "green" solutions, while also substantially enhancing the system resilience to extreme events. The sophisticated tools that are under development will confirm these preliminary findings through details numerical assessment and case studies in both China and Malaysia.
Exploitation Route The methodologies and models under development are of completely general validity, with potential in both ODA and non-ODA countries
Sectors Energy

 
Description The project has only recently started. However, we can already see an impact on our project partners and in particular in Malaysia. This is owing to our active collaboration and engagement with the local utility, Sarawak Energy, whom we have met several times, already. We are in fact working closely with them to establish a general methodology and develop relevant modelling tools for investment into distributed energy systems. The key driver for this research is to answer the key question as to whether microgrids and the likes can provide both economic and resilient support to isolated areas that are not easily reachable by the main grid. The models under development will thus practically applied by Sarawak Energy in the island of Borneo, and then also extended to applications in our other partner country, China. The Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is also strongly involved in and supporting our project, particularly in terms of aligning our development and findings with the more general low-carbon technology strategies of the Malaysian Governemnt. Furhermore, while the extension to most other ODA countries is straightforward, interestingly the general methodology under development could also be applied to developed countries and the UK alike, for example to identify the optimal portfolio of distributed and centralised energy resources to move towards meeting ambitious environmental targets while also enhancing system resilience. Our project is also contributing to several UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), for example SDG7 ("Affordable and Clean Energy") and SDG9 ("Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure") through the development of methodologies and tools capable of determining an optimal portfolio of low-carbon resources (including investments in traditional network reinforcements and low-carbon distributed energy systems such as community based systems and micro-grids) while assessing and enhance the resilience to the impact of extreme natural events (e.g. flooding) on the electricity infrastructure. These tools can be applied to any extreme weather event (such as windstorms, hurricanes and floods), which are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change. In this respect, our project also contributes strongly to SDG13 ("Climate Action"), for which it is also important to highlight that the impacts of climate change are significantly stronger in ODA countries. In the case of the electricity sector, this problem is exacerbated by the presence of weaker infrastructure, commonly observed in poorer countries. Hence, the countries in question are not only more exposed to the effects of climate change, but also less prepared to face them. It is thus critical, in this context, to develop solutions that are affordable for developing regions, with the minimum budget expenditure so as to improve the overall quality of the electricity service in an economic fashion.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy
Impact Types Policy & public services