Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure

“Introduction to the complexity of infrastructures … Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures … The Energy Transition in Germany … Infrastructure and liveability”
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Summaries

  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.1 Introduction to the complexity of infrastructures > Our Grand Challenge
  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.1 Introduction to the complexity of infrastructures > Getting to know the concepts
  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.1 Introduction to the complexity of infrastructures > Animation: the complexity of infrastructures
  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part A: Web lecture
  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part B: Web lecture
  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part C: Web lecture
  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part D: Web lecture
  • Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.3 The Energy Transition in Germany (case study) > The energy transition in Germany

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.1 Introduction to the complexity of infrastructures > Our Grand Challenge

  • We are both professors at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and scientific co-directors of the Next Generation Infrastructures Network.
  • In our research and education we focus on how infrastructures evolve and how the behavior of infrastructures emerges over time.
  • We look at infrastructures from both a technical and a social perspective.
  • Furthermore we look at these actors and infrastructures on a local, regional, national and a transnational level and analyze the diverging interests that occur between actors at different levels.
  • Infrastructures provide critical services such as the transportation of people and goods, the provision of energy, water and sanitation, and telecommunication and information services.
  • Imagine how your life would be without electricity to power the devices you use at home and in the office, without safe and reliable drinking water, without cars, trains and air traffic, without your mobile phone and without internet access.
  • While there is moral imperative to ensure reliable and affordable infrastructure services for all, the world population is still growing, and natural resources are becoming increasingly strained, adding to the challenge.
  • In many infrastructure systems we see many innovations at the same time, occurring at various speeds, at various places, and at various levels.
  • We see changing demand patterns, for example due to population growth in urban areas and increasing welfare giving people access to a wide range of infrastructure services.
  • At the same time, infrastructures are becoming more and more interconnected and interdependent across infrastructure sectors.
  • Securing the availability, accessibility, affordability and acceptability of infrastructures will therefore lead to new governance challenges.
  • This change in the use of the electricity infrastructure has far reaching implications in terms of balancing supply and demand, the price of electricity and the debate around the potential need for smart meters and storage of electricity in the next generation electricity infrastructure.
  • While addressing the issues mentioned, and more, during this course you will learn three things: You will learn to understand why infrastructures are getting more complex, from various perspectives, you will learn to understand what the driving forces are behind these developments and you will learn how to cope with the growing complexity of infrastructures.
  • Enjoy the course, have fun, and join us in our quest to understand and shape next generation infrastructures.

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.1 Introduction to the complexity of infrastructures > Getting to know the concepts

  • What you should first wonder about is: what is the definition of infrastructure, or: what is a useful definition of infrastructure? If you think about infrastructures, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a highway or a railroad network, or any other large scale technological system.
  • The scale of this system may be: Local or regional, as in the case of drinking water and sewage infrastructure.
  • Most of today’s infrastructure systems cross national borders.
  • Think of electricity infrastructures, and of course telecommunication networks and the internet.
  • If your focus is on the physical reality, then you will appreciate infrastructures as truly impressive feats of engineering.
  • Infrastructures are incredibly complex physical networks, composed of millions of links and nodes.
  • We can also think of the technological expert knowledge that we need to design, build, maintain and operate these infrastructures.
  • Without science and engineering knowledge, infrastructures could never have been brought into being.
  • The technological or physical dimension is only part of the story of infrastructure.
  • A social scientist studying infrastructure will see a social system, in which millions of users are interconnected.
  • So infrastructures have a physical and a social dimension.
  • One of our challenges in this course is therefore to understand, deeply understand infrastructures as socio-technical systems.
  • Each infrastructure system was brought into being to provide a specific service that we consider essential for our well being, for socio-economic development.
  • Infrastructures for mobility of people and goods have allowed us to explore the world.
  • Infrastructure related services are so essential, that national governments take responsibility for the accessibility, availability, affordability and social acceptability of these services.
  • This may imply that the infrastructure is owned and operated by a government body.
  • As we will see, there are alternative ways to ensure the reliability and quality of infrastructure related services.
  • Let us take the example of the electricity infrastructure.
  • The first true electricity infrastructure came online in 1882.
  • Today’s electricity infrastructures link these formerly separate networks into national and even supra-national power systems.
  • In recent decades processes of infrastructure reform have induced so-called vertical unbundling of the electricity value chain.
  • The existing infrastructure network was established over many decades and represents a massive capital cost.
  • As you can see, the social system has become much more complex as a consequence of electricity infrastructure reform.
  • In the electricity infrastructure, new technologies are being introduced, for example to farm wind and solar power.
  • This is just another example of how the social and the technical dimensions of the electricity infrastructure are closely intertwined.
  • Infrastructures become even more fascinating if you realize that most of these systems have slowly interconnected local, regional and national systems over several decades or even centuries.
  • The city’s infrastructures simply cannot keep up with the massive influx of new citizens and the fast growth of the economy.
  • Even when advanced infrastructure is available, we are struggling to adapt our legacy systems to changing demands and preferences of individual users and their societies.
  • Local infrastructure failure may have mundane causes such as wear and tear, or digging contractors that accidentally hit a pipeline or a cable.
  • To further complicate matters, failures may also originate from other infrastructure systems.
  • Which is because today’s infrastructure systems are largely interdependent.
  • Drinking water infrastructure needs electricity to power its pumps.
  • Continental electricity infrastructure needs telecom and information infrastructure.
  • Then mobile telecommunication infrastructure critically depends on electricity.
  • In other words, we are dealing with a system of interdependent infrastructure systems.
  • The socio-technical complexity of modern infrastructure is unprecedented, which is one of the reasons why we refer to Next Generation Infrastructure.
  • How else are we to supply the next generation of the world population with essential infrastructure services? We will use the conceptual framework of Complex Adaptive Systems to capture the dynamics of infrastructure systems.
  • These dynamics will become clear when looking at the operational time scales and the evolutionary time scales of infrastructure systems.
  • Eventually, we will show you how the development and services of infrastructures depend on the decisions of many different actors in the system: investors, owners, operators, regulators, policy makers and users; to name some of the most important actors.
  • You will learn to not underestimate the power you have, as a user, with millions of other users, to change the pathways of infrastructure development.

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.1 Introduction to the complexity of infrastructures > Animation: the complexity of infrastructures

  • We can see an ever increasing penetration of IT and telecommunication infrastructures into all aspects of society.
  • Everything becomes connected to the internet including infrastructures.
  • This creates opportunities in all infrastructure sectors to use available infrastructure capacity smarter, and to develop tailor-made services for different user groups, even personalized services.
  • At the same time, the use of ICT in all infrastructures generates heaps of data on the state of the infrastructure and on user behavior.
  • These data can potentially be used by infrastructure operators, service providers, municipal, national and supranational authorities to understand and shape the evolution of infrastructure systems.
  • This also shows that infrastructures become more and more interdependent.
  • Transport infrastructure depends on energy: transport fuels as well as electricity.
  • Electricity infrastructure depends on ICT infrastructures and vice-versa.
  • This interdependency is a double edged sword: ICT enables better performance of critical infrastructures but also brings new risks and vulnerabilities, as ICT itself is a critical infrastructure.
  • At the dawn of infrastructure development, the situation was simple: we were dealing with local or regional systems, run by a single entity, whether a private or a public monopoly.
  • On the one side, mergers and acquisitions have resulted in large scale multinational infrastructure companies.
  • On the other side, user co-operatives are emerging which have more bargaining power than single users on the pricing of infrastructure services, and some of which even aspire to seizing back control of infrastructure provision.
  • New technologies are also opening the way towards bottom-up, user-driven infrastructure development.
  • This phenomenon, known as inverse infrastructures, relies on decentralized technologies for infrastructure services, which are linked in local networks, at the initiative of the individual producers and users, in a self-organized way, and relying on decentralized control.
  • The internet is often seen as an example of an inverse infrastructure.
  • Governments want reliable and affordable infrastructures; private companies look for profit; some consumers want high quality, while others may give priority to lower prices.
  • To summarize: Infrastructures systems and services for transport of people and goods, for energy and water provision and for information sharing and communication form the very backbone of our society.
  • This backbone is a complex system of interconnected and interdependent infrastructure systems, which are complex systems in themselves.
  • All infrastructure systems face common challenges: the scarcity of capital and natural resources forces us to make better use of available infrastructure capacity and to reduced negative impacts on the natural environment.
  • Around the world, billions of people still do not have access to reliable drinking water, to electricity services, to all weather roads or other basic infrastructure services.
  • In those parts of the world where legacy infrastructure systems are lacking, there is the potential to leapfrog to the latest technologies, such as in Africa, which leapfrogged towards mobile telecommunication and information infrastructures, skipping the copper wired fixed telephone infrastructure.
  • In other parts of the world, users impose higher quality demands on legacy infrastructure systems and even require individualized service.
  • Regardless how different the challenges for different world regions may seem at first sight, in all cases we will have to struggle with the complexity of infrastructure systems: the diversity of actors and interests involved and the diversity of potential technological solutions.
  • It is a daunting tor even impossible task to design and steer infrastructure innovation.
  • How will the future look like? What is your time horizon? Which technologies are most promising? Will all buildings become energy neutral? How do you make sure that the infrastructure meets new safety standards? How do you ensure its affordability both in the short and in the long run? What do you know about future performance requirements, given demographic change and changing economic conditions? Which data do you need? You will probably find yourself at a roundabout with many competing options and trying to find a comprehensive solution.
  • We will provide you with some modeling and simulation tools to help you in this process and to get to grips with the complexity of infrastructure systems.
  • Also concerns about terrorist attacks demonstrating the vulnerability of infrastructures and ethical notions such as fairness and social inclusion.
  • Infrastructure systems and services need to be designed, regulated, operated, and maintained.

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part A: Web lecture

  • In this course we have introduced the notion of infrastructure systems as complex systems, and the notion of infrastructure systems as socio-technical systems.
  • Both in their physical dimension and in their social dimension, infrastructure systems behave as complex systems.
  • Complex systems are characterized by emergent behaviour.
  • The system behaviour at macro-level emerges from the behaviour of interacting system elements at the micro-level.
  • Since all the technical parts of the system are designed according to functional and performance specifications, and since we put controls in place to make sure that the system behaves as intended, how can it be that we cannot predict the behaviour of the overall system? The answer is in the interactions.
  • When many simple systems are interconnected into a larger network, they interact with each other, across different time scale levels, and across different levels.
  • Size levels) In doing so, the system may reconfigure itself and show behaviour that you had not anticipated.
  • The emergent behaviour of the overall system may be predictable, but it may also be completely unpredictable and unexpected.
  • In the built environment, cities can be viewed as complex systems, functioning like a living organism, consuming energy, water and food, and excreting waste and waste water, Presenter with infrastructure systems representing their metabolic pathways.
  • Infrastructure systems themselves are complex systems.
  • The complexity of infrastructure systems has many causes.
  • The legacy infrastructures of the industrialized world are a patchwork of local, regional and national networks, with a vast number of decentralized controls at all levels of the system.
  • The patchworked nature of our multinational transport, energy and communication networks can be recognized from the click national standards that still persist in many physical infrastructure systems.
  • If you travel a lot, you will know that you need to bring a set of adapter plugs, so that you can connect your mobile phone and laptop rechargers to different sockets abroad. Another example: railway systems in different countries use different railway gauges.
  • Some parts of the electricity infrastructure in Europe and the US date back more than 50 years.
  • The exact technical specifications of old parts of the infrastructure and records of the exact location of underground cables and pipelines may have been lost.
  • It therefore comes as no surprise that Yorkshire Water had a keen interest in improving its distribution system, and ensuring its long term robustness.
  • The cross-border interconnectors between the national electricity systems in Europe were originally intended as back-up facilities to be used only if the system stability at the national level needed support.
  • Generally, fossil and nuclear power plants are strategically located in the vicinity of the electricity demand centers, the load centers, as they are called by electrical engineers, such as big cities and energy-intensive industrial sites.
  • In other words, the flow patterns in the European system are drastically changing, and, since the amount of electricity generated from intermittent renewable energy sources is increasing Click click click , Presenter the risk of the system becoming unstable is increasing.
  • Electricity infrastructure differs from other infrastructure systems in the sense that the system has little storage capacity in proportion to its overall size.
  • In a system with little storage capacity, this implies that the balancing of supply and demand Fullscreen needs to be managed in real-time.
  • As more and more power is generated from intermittent renewable energy sources, the share of controllable generators in the generation mix is dwindling, and balancing the supply and demand becomes far more challenging In comparison with electricity infrastructure, water and gas infrastructures are far more inert systems.
  • The flows in these systems are relatively slow, and since there is ample storage capacity, including the storage capacity in the pipelines themselves, Presenter the balancing of supply and demand is far less critical than in the electricity system.

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part B: Web lecture

  • Welcome back! So far we have been talking mainly about legacy infrastructure systems.
  • You may have started to wonder about new infrastructure systems.
  • Surely you would expect such a system to behave more predictably? I am sorry to disappoint you.
  • For a small system at a very local level it may be possible to model the system accurately and to predict its behavior.
  • Most infrastructure systems are much larger, and have a tendency to grow continuously, as a result of economies of scale and network externalities.
  • Many technologies applied in infrastructure systems are characterized by decreasing cost per unit of output with increasing scale, until a certain optimum size of operation.
  • Economies of scale and network externalities explain why infrastructure systems for energy, transport, telecommunication and information services have a natural tendency to grow into huge systems, comprising a huge number of subsystems, links and nodes, all of which are interdependent in several ways.
  • The non-linearities caused by feedbacks between subsystems, across system levels and time scales, are the main cause of emergent behavior of the aggregated system, that is the system as a whole.
  • As the number of subsystems and interrelationships increases, and as those interrelationships become more diverse, it becomes more difficult to gain an overall view of the system and to know all the feedback loops.
  • Eventually, the system will become so complex that the analyst can no longer recognise or model it at all.
  • The emergent behavior of infrastructure systems shows remarkably consistent patterns.
  • These recurrent patterns play a crucial role in the operation of infrastructure systems.
  • As a user, I do not care, since the value of the infrastructure for me is determined by the system’s performance at the aggregate level.
  • What difference does it make for me what cables or switches are used, as long as I can make a phone call and watch television in a comfortably heated home? Another factor contributing to the predictability of infrastructure system behavior is path dependency.
  • The sunk costs represented by the existing system make it more likely that we will stick to the established system.
  • In other words, technological choices that we made a long time in the past, have created a certain path dependency: they dictate many of the choices we make today about expanding and innovating our infrastructure systems.
  • The path dependency created by past technology choices and capital investments does not mean that established infrastructure systems will never become obsolete.
  • Studies on complex systems often use the concept of agents for interacting elements in the system.
  • In general, an agent is a model for any entity in the system that acts according to a set of rules, depending on input from the outside world.
  • An agent can be an automatic on-off switch in a local control system, it can be a sophisticated software entity that is capable of intelligent control actions, it can be a human controller or any other decision maker, somewhere in the infrastructure system.
  • In our view, an infrastructure system includes – besides the transport and distribution networks – the carriers, conversion and storage facilities as well as the governance, management and control systems that are needed to make the system meet its functional specifications and its social objectives.
  • In all parts of the system, social agents or actors as we call them, are making big and small decisions that influence the behavior of the system.
  • The complexity of infrastructure systems in the social domain is the subject of the next video lecture.

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part C: Web lecture

  • In this video I will discuss the social dimension of the complexity of infrasystems.
  • Social and technical complexity result in a complex sociotechnical system.
  • Complex behaviour in the social part of the system arises from interactions between the actors operating in infrasystems.
  • The number of actors involved in infrasystems has grown significantly in recent years, and with it the variety of the actions and interactions.
  • I will successively discuss the changes in the actor configuration, the actions these actors take and the resulting interaction patterns.
  • I will present a number of change processes below, all of which resulted in an increase in the number of actors in infrasystems as well as their variety.
  • Unbundling is the separation of activities and roles in the production chain, where possible, a vertical decoupling.
  • In many infrastructures, a separation was applied between the operation of the infrastructure and the operation of the services provided over the infrastructure.
  • An example is railway companies, where the operation of the railways and the operation of train services are usually separated.
  • Mild forms include accounting separations, while the most severe forms are those in which completely different companies are responsible for these operations with the companies having nothing to do with one another legally, financially and as far as ownership is concerned.
  • In countries in which regulators were not yet active, the legislature often introduced regulators to monitor the markets and the hived-off or privatized actors.
  • This applies to rail networks, energy networks and telecom networks.
  • Global players are emerging who, although initially based and legally administered in a particular country, in fact appear as truly global players.
  • The gradual development of a system of systems is an important factor in the increasing complexity of infrasystems.
  • Previously separated infrasystems play a substantial role in facilitating the proper functioning of other infrasystems.
  • Energy is an infrasystem that is essential for the proper functioning of other infrasystems.
  • Of course, energy and the internet are mutually dependent on each other.
  • Two: problems in one infrasystem are propagated to other infrasystems.
  • Because multiple types of services are provided over an infrastructure, you draw all the actors involved in those other services into the infrasystem’s arena as it were.
  • The number of actors grows significantly as a result and, because they have different backgrounds, the variety among the actors will also increase.
  • Thank you for your attention! The next lecture we will discuss what this means for the complexity of infrasystems.

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.2 Explaining the Socio-Technical Complexity of Infrastructures > Part D: Web lecture

  • What do all of these transitions mean for the complexity of infrasystems? In the video on complexity you saw that complex behaviour arises from interaction and thus that complexity theory focuses on relationships.
  • All of the changes mentioned have made the network of actors far more complex.
  • There are now many more actors, with a greater diversity in backgrounds, and in interests.
  • To truly understand the complexity of a system, we must focus on the relationships between actors and the interactions between them.
  • Actions that influence other actors, who in turn take anticipatory and reactive actions themselves.
  • What do they do? As well as making laws, ministries do far more: they issue policy documents, draw up subsidy rules, change the conditions and withdraw them again, top officials and administrators give speeches, etc.
  • Administrators and civil servants speak to industry and consumer representatives and send out certain signals in these conversations, which can be significant for those involved.
  • Companies put new products and services on the market, tap into new markets, decide to discontinue certain products and markets etc.
  • Some of these actions are relatively straightforward.
  • It is clear what the actor intends with his action and what the action entails.
  • In short, the number of actions of actors in an infrasystem is incalculable, and many of them are of a strategic nature.
  • These actions are significant for other actors in the network, who either benefit from or are hindered by them.
  • Because these actions are significant for them, they will respond to them or perhaps even anticipate them.
  • How exactly does this dynamic occur? Let’s say that an actor is preparing a decision.
  • In considering which alternative to choose, he will try to imagine how other actors will respond to his alternative.
  • If a company puts a certain product on the market for a certain price, which of the consumers will purchase it, and how will the regulator respond? And what about the competitors? Ultimately, he will make a decision and act.
  • Some of the results of the decision, including the actions of other actors, will be as expected, while others will be unexpected.
  • The reason for this is that the reactions of actors and systems could not be entirely predicted in advance and because not everyone provided the correct data.
  • Many actors will work on such considerations at the same time, and all of them will be confronted with some unexpected, unfavorable effects.
  • Although for some this is no reason to change their decision and course, for others it is.
  • They will reverse their previous decision and make a different one.
  • Yet other actors will respond to and anticipate that.
  • Clearly, the more actors there are, the more complex the interactions become.
  • It goes without saying that the combination of the technical and social side of infrasystems is also complex.

Module 1 : Complexity of infrastructure > 1.3 The Energy Transition in Germany (case study) > The energy transition in Germany

  • Any power they produce in excess of their own demand will be purchased at an attractive feed-in tariff.
  • The German green energy transition was given an extra boost when the nuclear power plant in Fukushima was hit by the tsunami.
  • Following the melt down, the German government decided to immediately close seven nuclear power plants dating from before 1980.
  • Nuclear power plants supplied as much as 23% of the country’s electrical power needs.
  • You would expect the power producers to be eager to fill the gap created by the closure of the nuclear plants.
  • As it turns out, the power producers are not willing to take the bait.
  • Why not? For the energy companies, the forced early closure of their nuclear power plants, implies that they have to write them off at an accelerated rate.
  • Another costly problem for them is that green electricity is given priority access to the grid, at the expense of the traditional, sometimes lignite fired power plants.
  • Such power plants need to operate at least at 30 or 40% of their capacity to be economical.
  • More and more, it happens that Germany’s wind parks and solar panels supply enough electricity to meet Germany’s demand.
  • This results in excess supply and even negative electricity prices because the lignite fired power plants cannot operate below their minimum working capacity.
  • For them, there is no sense of urgency when it comes to investing in new power generation capacity.
  • At least 15 new plants will be required to make up for the closure of the nuclear power plants.
  • The availability of wind and solar power is not guaranteed at all times.
  • Neighboring countries are confronted with large fluctuations in the power flows on their national grids since Germany is dependent on the international grid for transport of electricity between the North and the South.
  • As in Germany, their energy companies are not willing to invest despite the urgent need to invest in generation capacity that can be easily adjusted to the fluctuations in wind and solar power.
  • Because of the high gas prices and the low electricity prices, gas fired power plants are not economical.
  • The combination of cheap coal from the West and cheap power from the East has virtually eliminated any incentive for the Netherlands to invest in renewable energy.
  • Even if we are still continuing to build new wind farms on the North Sea, we are far behind Germany when it comes to the share of wind power in the total electricity mix.
  • The economic system balances the supply and demand of electricity where the balance is reached at a specific price.
  • They do not represent real power flows in the physical system.
  • The actual flows are dictated by the net result of all the transactions between the economic actors, and each of these transactions represents an estimate of the projected power supply and use, by a specific producer and a specific user, at a specified time in the future, necessitating corrections to be made close to real-time in the physical system.
  • The logic of the technical system suggests that the closure of the nuclear power plants must result in the construction of new plants.
  • Technical characteristics of power plants, create situations of excess supply, which occasionally result in negative electricity prices.
  • Germany’s Green Energy Transition periodically causes an excess of cheap power in neighboring markets, and threatens the stability of the electricity system, within and beyond German borders.
  • In the Netherlands, the supply of cheap power interferes with the cheap coal shipped from the United States, which in turn is a consequence of the shale gas revolution in that country.
  • In short, seemingly unrelated events and developments in Japan and the US turn out to interfere with the German and wider European electricity infrastructure in unanticipated ways, causing the electricity infrastructure of Germany and its neighbors to move to near-critical operating conditions.

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