How do we quantify sustainability in portfolio systems

Problem Title

How do we quantify sustainability in portfolio systems

Scientific Title

Quantifying the Sustainability of Portfolio Systems

Student: 
Emily Pottier
Major(s): 
Mechanical Engineering
iCons Concentration: 
Renewable Energy
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2017
Executive Summary 

As energy demands increase, policy makers find themselves under strain to meet them as quickly as possible. They need reliable energy now, they don’t have time to consider every sustainable alternative. My research aims to fix this problem by providing a model that calculates the sustainability of complex systems. Klein and Whalley (2015) laid the groundwork for comparing the sustainability of different isolated energy technologies, such as solar or natural gas. They compared thirteen technologies based on their technical, economic, environmental, and social sustainability through the use of eight sustainability factors. We extend this work to a portfolio of energy technologies, since all large-scale electricity systems use a number of different technologies simultaneously. These systems are more complex, as they are comprised of more than one type of technology at once. By doing so, renewable systems can be made more reliable by supplementing them with nonrenewable sources, like natural gas. My work involves applying the equations established by Klein and Whalley to portfolio systems. This is done by scaling the sustainability factor for each technology with the percentage of the energy output produces. This represents the contribution that technology has on the entire system. Summing these for each factor yields the sustainability information for the entire portfolio. Through this work, these portfolio systems can have their sustainability compared based on what type of sustainability is desired. This will further increase the number of options policy makers have for including sustainable systems in the community.

Problem Keywords: 
environmental sustainability
Scientific Keywords: 
sustainability of complex systems
portfolios