• Destenie Nock

The Tale of Two Talks: Energy And Equality Modeling Framework

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

May 22, 2019 By Destenie Nock

This weekend I gave two talks on using the benefit maximization framework I am developing as a tool for exploring different electrification options. Traditionally the generation expansion plan has been approached by projecting electricity demand in a region and then building the power system in the least cost way to meet that demand. My approach is more opportunistic and focuses on maximizing the benefits from increased electricity access, while holding the cost as a constraint.


At the IISE conference representing both Carnegie Mellon and North Carolina A&T State University.

To get a better idea of how the framework could be useful, consider a region, which doesn't have any type of access to electricity. Supposed this nation has 100 million dollars to build an electricity system. Assuming that the budget for building the system is held constant, we have the opportunity to ask some interesting questions:

  1. What mix of power plants and transmission lines would maximize equality in terms of electricity access?

  2. How does this change if the group of decision makers developing the electrification plan have different preferences for how much they should care about equality?


In Figure 1 there are three squares. The first square shows a region who is looking to build an electricity system. The circles indicate where people live, and the larger the circle the more people that live in that location. The second square indicates the suggested electrification strategy under low equality concerns, and the third square illustrates how the electrification recommendations change under a high equality concern. In my research we find that under the same budget constraint, increasing equality concerns lead to more investment in transmission line infrastructure, and solar home systems (provided battery costs fall in the coming years). In other words, when decision makers don’t care about equality the strategy is to place large power plants in the large cities, while when a higher emphasis is placed on increasing equality more money is used to spread out electricity access using power lines and solar.


Figure 1: Changes in electricity plan under different preferences for equality

At the Ethiopian conference I discussed how this framework can be applied to educational infrastructure (i.e. universities, bus routes, and book distribution centers). At the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) conference in Orlando, the talk explored the modeling framework in detail, and discussed how the energy policy implications of including preferences for equality in the decision process. I am going to continue the work on exploring stakeholder preferences for electricity expansion in emerging economies during the Stakeholder Workshop I will be hosting with the SEA-Africa Team in Ghana this coming August.

At the Ethiopian Embassy giving a talk on how we can use Applied Optimization and Economics tools to rethink the way we plan energy and educational infrastructure,

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Note About the Author: Destenie Nock holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. Her research is focused on asking question centered around electricity planning in the USA and emerging Economies. She considers herself to be a systems modeler with a love of decision analysis. In her work she likes to ask questions such as: “How can we increase sustainability and equality of our power systems.” Currently she is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow (2019) and incoming Assistant Professor (2020) in the Engineering & Public Policy and Civil & Environmental Engineering departments at Carnegie Mellon University. She has been previously held positions at Argonne National Lab, The Utility Regulator of Northern Ireland, and ExxonMobil.

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