On September 14, 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the twelve Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP) Project winners at the White House Smart Cities Week kick-off event. The CRISP awards are three- and four-year projects that will help design, adapt, and manage connected communities of the future. Among the winners was a grant led by University of New Mexico (UNM) and University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) researchers, who will work with Fraunhofer CSE to address the challenges associated with the rapid evolution of the electricity grid to a highly distributed infrastructure.
The project, Revolution through Evolution: A Controls Approach to Improve How Society Interacts with Electricity, will focus on the transformation of power distribution feeders from relatively passive channels for delivering electricity to customers, to distribution microgrids or entities that actively manage local production, storage, and use of electricity. Key findings will produce a unified model that incorporates key aspects of power generation and delivery, information flow, market design, and human behavior. The model predictions can be used by policymakers to guide a transition to clean energy via distribution microgrids. The expectation is to enable at least 50% of electric power to come from renewable resources. This cannot be done with the traditional grid, due to its limited capacity to accommodate intermittent renewable power sources, nor with fully decentralized approaches, which would not be affordable for most utility customers.
Collaborating with the UNM and UTK researchers, Fraunhofer CSE’s Dr. Joana Abreu will lead the project’s human behavior research, focusing on social-behavioral and incentive-based approaches to grid resilience.
Dr. Abreu’s work for the CRISP grant will address five key questions:
- What are the key social-psychological attitudinal and demographic factors that have the greatest impact on people’s propensity to respond to demand response (DR) programs?
- What are people’s distinct profiles/segments, as determined by electricity consumption practices and household characteristics, and their flexibility or potential to shift or change?
- How do different segments of customers respond to three possible grid operation conditions: normal condition, unusual condition, and emergency condition?
- How do people think about their flexibility in modifying routines to participate in DR events to increase grid resiliency?
- At what point and what time of incentive should a utility offer residential customers to change their behavior, (i.e., in the three different grid conditions – normal, unusual, and emergency)?
Dr. Abreu brings over ten years of industry and government experience to the project. Her work at Fraunhofer CSE centers on the intersection of home energy management technology, occupant behavior, and building science to understand energy-use decisions and behaviors and to evaluate the human factors in technology adoption and acceptance.