European Conference on Complex Systems

ECCS’11 Vienna


Satellite meeting


Complexity in Energy Infrastructures: Models, Metrics and Metaphors



Marcelo Masera, Institute for Energy (JRC Petten, The Netherlands)

Mario Rasetti , Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation (Torino, Italy)

Margot Weijnen, Next Generation Infrastructures Foundation (Delft, The Netherlands)

Ettore Bompard, Politecnico di Torino (Torino, Italy)

Martí Rosas-Casals, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Terrassa, Spain)

Sergi Valverde, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain)

Paul Hines, University of Vermont (Burlington, VT, United States of America)



Energy infrastructures shape the contemporary world. Their presence is so intertwined with modern society, and so much taken for granted, that we notice them only when they fail to deliver energy services. It is a priority for every developed (and developing) nation to secure the energy chain, from production to consumption, in the most economic manner while simultaneously using the most reliable and sustainable technology available. Societies must work constantly to satisfy human needs in the short and long terms without affecting the quality and availability of primary resources like air, water and food. The task is one of enormous importance considering the expected expansion of highly liberalized markets, the interactions and interdependencies among the companies and countries involved in the different energy chains, the many environmental constraints, and the increasing social reluctance to new facilities’ sitting and forecasting.


Energy (as well as information and material) infrastructures, such as power grids, are characterized by a large number of components and many different types of interactions among them.  Size itself does not mean complexity. The European continental-scale power grid, for example, is the largest dynamic system in the world. However, from a physical point of view can be approximately modeled by a (huge) set of differential equations (the present target in “traditional simulation” being 13.000 buses, 14.000 lines and 160.000 variables, algebraic plus state). Complexity arises when the physical substrate interacts with the rest of hierarchical levels governing the infrastructure.  Its overall expected performance and dynamic evolution (in terms of economic and social surpluses and prices, environmentally acceptable levels of pollutants and energy efficiency, etc.) are related to those interactions at the “individual” scale (producers, consumers, generators, TSO’s, DSO’s, regulators, decision makers, etc.). These phenomena cannot be handled nor studied with a set of differential equations. Infrastructures have always been complicated. But in recent years they have been widely acknowledged as complex systems as well, where the many interactions of the aforementioned multitude of agents (a) affect in a hectic way both generation and consumption and (b) interact with a heavy physically constrained system (too keep it feasible and hence secure) in a market context.


This real, and at the same time virtual, multi-scaling and hierarchical complexity is linked with dynamical complexity. New disturbances and energy injections (and withdrawals) due to renewable energies (or sabotages and cascading failures) are transmitted through old transmission paths. These extreme phenomena, either endogenously or exogenously generated (like weather induced failures), seem to appear more frequently in recent years, and it looks as if old reliability network criteria are not anymore an assurance for the safety of the system as a whole. Besides, the future smart-grid design of power systems will turn these once passive entities in active and responsive systems, with a larger autonomous decision capacity and where many inputs will have and endogenous origin.


Moreover, the energy systems are operated by many companies with different policies, strategies and goals. The overall energy supply stems from their combined action. Those companies function within and across diverse national markets, with regulations and rules that can diverge substantially. Therefore, the complexity of the energy infrastructure gains further intricacy and convolution from those upper layers shaped by the decisions and choices made by corporate organizations, markets and countries.


All these phenomena, some of them emergent in a deep sense, together with characteristics such as hierarchy and functional and structural variability in the composing elements and connectivities, has spurred the scientific community to look for new ways to understand and mitigate the negative effects of this complexity. In this sense, the main goal of this satellite proposal is to provide an agora for presenting and proposing new models, methods, metrics and even metaphors to assessing the complexity, sustainability, management, vulnerability and security of energy infrastructure systems in general, and power systems in particular. Specific subjects of interest for this satellite are the following:


·       Infrastructural networks structure and evolution.

·       Operational behavior and catastrophic dynamics of infrastructural networks.

·       Multi-scaling and hierarchical characterization.

·       Meta-complexities and infrastructural networks interdependencies.

·       Biology-inspired resilient networks and metaphors.

·       Aggregate and agent-based modeling of impacts and dynamic processes in infrastructural networks.


Prospective audience

Prospective audience for this satellite will be essentially:

·       Statistical physicists.

·       Engineers.

·       Infrastructural projects managers.

·       Decision makers.

·       Economists.


Preliminary agenda

The preliminary agenda for this satellite would be essentially the following:

·       February 10, 2011 – April 1, 2011: Call for papers.

·       June 10, 2011: Notifications and decision papers.

·       September 12-16, 2011 (Sept 13, 2011): Main Conference (and Satellite)


Abstract submission

Abstracts will be evaluated and selected under the authority of the satellite organizers. To submit a talk, prepare an abstract in plain ascii format (1/2 page max) with author/s name/s and affiliation/s and send it by e-mail to the contact organizers below, writing “Abstract ECCS11 Energy Infrastructures Satellite” in the subject. The deadline for abstract submission is Apr 1, 2011. New dates:


May 25 – Deadline for submissions

June 5 – Notification of acceptance

June 25 – Release of final program


Final Program (Wednesday, September 14th, Hall D)


Please, check the conference program and handbook (http://www.eccs2011.eu/program/) for further information.


08.00 - 08.45 Registration


08.45 - 09.00 Opening & Welcome


09.00 - 09.20 “A framework for development of energy security indicators”, R. Bolado.


09.20 - 09.40 “Assessing the reliability of the European power grid using load curve indicators and topological characteristics”, C. Brancucci.


09.40 - 10.00 “An uncertainty analysis of the potential impact of shale gas on the global energy system”, F. Gracceva.


10.00 - 10.20 “Smart grid as a complex multilayer interacting system”, B. Han.


10.20 - 10.40 Open Panel / Discussion


10.45 - 11.15 Coffee Break


11.15 - 11.35 “Price spikes in electricity markets and stochastic resonating spiking”, C. Lucheroni.


11.35 - 11.55 “Capacity analysis of DC power grids”, J. van Mourik.


11.55 - 12.15 “Towards an interdisciplinary approach for the simulation of future smart grid architectures from a complex systems science point of view”, P. Viejo.


12.15 - 12.30 Open Final Panel / Discussion


12.30 - 14.00 Lunch



Ettore Bompard

Department of Electrical Engineering

Politecnico di Torino

C.so Duca degli Abruzzi, 24, 10129, Torino (Italy)

+39 011 564 7154

ettore.bompard [at] polito.it

Martí Rosas-Casals

Sustainability Measurement and Modeling Lab

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

EET, 1, Colom st., 08222, Terrassa, Barcelona (Spain)

+34 937 398 060

rosas [at] mmt.upc.edu