Toward Self-healing Electricity Infrastructure

Monday, November 3, 2003 - 1:35pm - 2:10pm
Keller 3-180
Massoud Amin (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)
With the tragic events of 9/11 permanently etched in our minds, the recent massive power outages brought eerie reminders of the events that shook our world two years ago. While we were relieved that there was no apparent evidence of terrorism, the cascading blackouts are not merely a warning, but the sudden and stark reality of the vulnerable condition of our electricity infrastructure becoming visible.

Electricity infrastructure touches us all -- therefore the key question is whether we are prepared for the future storms; more pertinent to this workshop, the key challenge is the control of a heterogeneous, widely dispersed, yet globally interconnected system is a serious technological problem in any case. It is even more complex and difficult to control it for optimal efficiency and maximum benefit to the ultimate consumers while still allowing all its business components to compete fairly and freely.

By way of background, the North American power network represents an
enormous investment - this infrastructure includes over 15,000 generators in 10,000 power plants, along with hundreds of thousands of miles of transmission lines, and distribution networks; it is estimated to be worth over 0 billion. The transmission and distribution plant-in-service was valued at 8 billion in 2000. With its millions of relays, controls and other components, it is the most complex machine ever invented. The National Academy of Engineering has hailed the North American power delivery system as the supreme engineering achievement of the 20th century because of its ingenious engineering, catalytic role for other technologies and impact in improving quality of life down to the household level.

Through this network, every user, producer, distributor and broker of electricity buys and sells, competes and cooperates in an Electric Enterprise. Every industry, every business, every store and every home is a participant, active or passive, in this continent-scale conglomerate. Over the next few years, the Electric Enterprise will undergo dramatic transformation as its key participants -- the traditional electric utilities -- respond to deregulation, competition, tightening environmental/land-use restrictions, and other global trends.

From a strategic R & D viewpoint, agility and robustness/survivability of large-scale dynamic networks that face new and unanticipated operating conditions will be presented. A major challenge is posed by the lack of a unified mathematical framework with robust tools for modeling, simulation, control and optimization of time-critical operations in complex multicomponent and multiscaled networks.

In this presentation, I'll present a model and simulation of the Electric Enterprise (taken in the broadest possible sense) that has been developed. The model uses autonomous, adaptive agents to represent both the possible industrial components, and the corporate entities that own these components and are now engaged in free competition. The goal in building this tool is to help these corporations evolve new business strategies for internal reorganization, external partnerships and market penetration.

This presentation will also focus on a strategic vision extending to a decade, or longer, that would enable more secure and robust systems operation, security monitoring and efficient energy markets.