Building adaptable agent-based models – application to the electricity distribution network

Boulaire, Fanny (2013) Building adaptable agent-based models – application to the electricity distribution network. In Piantadosi, J., Anderssen, R.S., & Boland, J. (Eds.) 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM2013), 1-6 December 2013, Adelaide Convention Centre, SA, Australia.

Extended Abstract (PDF 12kB)
Accepted Version.

View at publisher (open access)


Agent-based modelling (ABM), like other modelling techniques, is used to answer specific questions from real world systems that could otherwise be expensive or impractical. Its recent gain in popularity can be attributed to some degree to its capacity to use information at a fine level of detail of the system, both geographically and temporally, and generate information at a higher level, where emerging patterns can be observed. This technique is data-intensive, as explicit data at a fine level of detail is used and it is computer-intensive as many interactions between agents, which can learn and have a goal, are required. With the growing availability of data and the increase in computer power, these concerns are however fading. Nonetheless, being able to update or extend the model as more information becomes available can become problematic, because of the tight coupling of the agents and their dependence on the data, especially when modelling very large systems.

One large system to which ABM is currently applied is the electricity distribution where thousands of agents representing the network and the consumers’ behaviours are interacting with one another. A framework that aims at answering a range of questions regarding the potential evolution of the grid has been developed and is presented here. It uses agent-based modelling to represent the engineering infrastructure of the distribution network and has been built with flexibility and extensibility in mind. What distinguishes the method presented here from the usual ABMs is that this ABM has been developed in a compositional manner. This encompasses not only the software tool, which core is named MODAM (MODular Agent-based Model) but the model itself. Using such approach enables the model to be extended as more information becomes available or modified as the electricity system evolves, leading to an adaptable model.

Two well-known modularity principles in the software engineering domain are information hiding and separation of concerns. These principles were used to develop the agent-based model on top of OSGi and Eclipse plugins which have good support for modularity. Information regarding the model entities was separated into a) assets which describe the entities’ physical characteristics, and b) agents which describe their behaviour according to their goal and previous learning experiences. This approach diverges from the traditional approach where both aspects are often conflated. It has many advantages in terms of reusability of one or the other aspect for different purposes as well as composability when building simulations. For example, the way an asset is used on a network can greatly vary while its physical characteristics are the same – this is the case for two identical battery systems which usage will vary depending on the purpose of their installation. While any battery can be described by its physical properties (e.g. capacity, lifetime, and depth of discharge), its behaviour will vary depending on who is using it and what their aim is. The model is populated using data describing both aspects (physical characteristics and behaviour) and can be updated as required depending on what simulation is to be run. For example, data can be used to describe the environment to which the agents respond to – e.g. weather for solar panels, or to describe the assets and their relation to one another – e.g. the network assets. Finally, when running a simulation, MODAM calls on its module manager that coordinates the different plugins, automates the creation of the assets and agents using factories, and schedules their execution which can be done sequentially or in parallel for faster execution.

Building agent-based models in this way has proven fast when adding new complex behaviours, as well as new types of assets. Simulations have been run to understand the potential impact of changes on the network in terms of assets (e.g. installation of decentralised generators) or behaviours (e.g. response to different management aims). While this platform has been developed within the context of a project focussing on the electricity domain, the core of the software, MODAM, can be extended to other domains such as transport which is part of future work with the addition of electric vehicles.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

23 since deposited on 12 Feb 2014
4 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 67339
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Agent-Based Models, modularity, composability, electricity distribution networks
ISBN: 9780987214324
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND IMAGE PROCESSING (080100) > Simulation and Modelling (080110)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > COMPUTER SOFTWARE (080300) > Software Engineering (080309)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Current > Institutes > Institute for Future Environments
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 The Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc.
Deposited On: 12 Feb 2014 23:21
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2014 23:23

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page