Climate-aware decision-making: lessons for electric grid infrastructure planning and operations

Anna M Brockway, Liyang Wang, Laurel N Dunn, Duncan Callaway and Andrew Jones


Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Program Acknowledged Support: Yes, Regional & Global Model Analysis and MultiSector Dynamics


Climate change poses significant risks to large-scale infrastructure systems and brings considerable uncertainties that challenge historical planning approaches. Here we focus on how climate awareness might be better incorporated into planning and decision-making in the electric power sector. To do so, we consider lessons from decision science literature where researchers have specifically focused on how to make better decisions under uncertainty. We perform a three-part review: of decision science literature on best practices for decision-making under uncertainty, of industry practice documents to understand how new uncertainties may affect the types of decisions electric utilities are making today, and of literature on electricity sector planning under climate change to assess how lessons from decision science might fit into sector-specific analyses. We discuss how characterizations of uncertainty from the decision science literature might guide approaches in the electricity sector to appropriately capture climate-related uncertainties. We also distill three key ideas from the decision science literature that can be incorporated into electricity sector planning to manage these new uncertainties: robustness, adaptive planning, and multi-stakeholder engagement. We offer example recommendations for how these key ideas might be incorporated into one essential type of planning activity, capacity expansion.

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