Scenarios-Based Energy Planning
The cost of energy is one of the most common areas of concern across Alaska. It is a problem in which the effectiveness of different countermeasure options is difficult to predict. Addressing the challenge requires establishing a plan for achieving the type, amount and price of energy systems that can achieve a community’s priorities for its future. The realism and usefulness of that plan will be determined by its ability to address the complicated interactions between the many factors affecting community development.
ACEP is exploring the use of Scenarios Analysis as a means of understanding how different elements in a community’s future may interact with their various energy options. Reliable insights regarding areas of strong and weak opportunities provide useful information for the development of strategic energy plans that can be implemented with confidence and deep community engagement.
About Scenarios Analysis
Scenarios Analysis is a tool that facilitates structured thinking about the long-term (20-30 years from now) future. The objective is not to predict or forecast the future, but rather to identify multiple possible scenarios for consideration, none of which are "correct," but all of which will contain some element of truth and insight-giving perspective. Taken together, the scenarios are a resource for detailed strategy development, planning and decision-making. The scenarios are rooted in input provided by the community about their historical and present realities, and their hopes and concerns for the future.
The Scenarios Analysis process is founded on identification of significant elements associated with a community's future. Several possible futures for each of these "key factors" are projected, typically spanning a continuum that ranges from highly challenging to highly enabling.
An on-site workshop with stakeholders from the community, supported by additional subject matter experts, is used to establish the key factors and their future projections. These are refined by ACEP’s scenario analysts through a combination of research and interaction with the community.
For each key factor, the team (analysts, community representatives and subject matter experts) then estimates the relative plausibility for each key factor's future projections. These plausibility assessments are good faith estimates based on best judgment and any information that can be used to establish objective trends, not on the desirability of one trend versus another.
Each possible future is compared with every other possible future, to evaluate their consistency as a co-existing pair. Some combinations will be found to be mutually exclusive (e.g.,if the key factor is the type of energy used by the local utility, a community cannot simultaneously have 100% renewable and 100% fossil fuel energy sources) and some may be highly consistent (e.g., there is good correlation between a situation where there are no hazardous materials allowed, and a natural environment that is robust). The majority of the pairs will be either neutral (no linkage) or only partially consistent.
ACEP is using a computer tool to analyze the collection of key factor future possibilities and to identify those combinations which are most “robust” (a combination of probability and consistency). A matrix is developed to visualize the results, using graphical interconnections to show the future projections for each key factor that are calculated to be a robust combination.
These collections of possible futures are reviewed by the team members to discern similarities and differences, to identify events that may serve as trend indicators, and to consider possible actions that can be taken by the community and its collaborators. By identifying topics associated with these scenarios, insight can be gained that will help to prioritize initiatives most aligned with the desired results, and to avoid actions not as strongly affiliated.
A Case Study with the City of Yakutat
The City and Borough of Yakutat in Southeast Alaska worked with ACEP in an initial pilot of the scenarios analysis approach. Yakutat has commissioned several energy assessments and economic development studies over that past several years, which provided excellent background information for the effort, and good working relationships had already been established with ACEP as a result of other interactions.
In June 2013, ACEP held a community workshop in Yakutat to hear the community discuss past developments, how those changes in the community came about, and which ones had significant impact. We asked stakeholders to share what was truly important to them, what they saw as the attributes of Yakutat as a community with long-term sustainability, and to brainstorm about possible future developments.
Over the next six weeks, the team reviewed those inputs, and sought community feedback on our descriptions of the key factors and their future projections that had emerged from the discussion. In August 2013, ACEP held small group meetings in Yakutat to review the initial results from the scenario analysis tool and to gather additional information. The result will be a document available to the community as a reference for consultation as they refine their energy planning and select the focus areas and approaches they will choose for implementation.
Photo 1: Alaska powerlines.. Courtesy of ACEP/UAF.
Photo 2: ACEP Scenarios Planning Group meets with stakeholders in Yakutat, Alaska. Courtesy of Amanda Byrd ACEP/UAF.
Photo 3: Energy meters. Courtesy of ACEP/UAF.