Dr Simon Powers

ILAS Visiting Fellows seminar: Creating institutions for cooperative energy use in smart grids

Monday, 17 June

The Old Library, Keele Hall - 1.00 - 2.00pm

Refreshments from 12.45pm

As technology becomes ever more integrated into our daily lives, social issues become at least as important as technical ones. In other words, the systems are socio-technical. Many of these socio-technical systems provide new opportunities for citizens to work together to tackle pressing societal challenges. Examples include the use of artificial agents to automatically trade energy between users in smart grids, and the use of grid computing to harness the idle computing resources of millions of users to search for extra-terrestrial life.

But although these systems present great opportunities, they also present great challenges because they require individuals to cooperate by contributing their time, effort and resources to a shared enterprise. Consequently, they risk being subject to the Tragedy of the Commons where individuals act in a way that maximises their own payoff at the expense of the rest of the group.

Empirical work has demonstrated that some groups are able to avoid the Tragedy by co-creating and enforcing their own institutional rules that govern their interactions in the use of common-pool resources. In this talk, I will introduce a new project at Keele investigating the use of artificial intelligence to facilitate this in community energy systems, where groups of households share energy from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. The project focuses on finding rules for load balancing that users perceive as fair, and hence are motivated to follow. I will outline the experiments on perceived fairness of energy allocations that we plan to run at Keele.

Dr Simon Powers is an ILAS visiting fellow from the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University.  He is being hosted by Dr James Borg and Professor Fiona Polack from the School of Computing and Mathematics and the Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

His interests are in computational social, political, and economic science. His research brings together tools from computer science alongside an algorithmic viewpoint to tackle key questions in these disciplines; for example, can human values such as justice and fairness be formalised computationally? Can doing so help to build AI systems that interact with humans in a more meaningful way? How can we use AI to help a group work together to avoid overexploiting their resources and falling prey to the Tragedy of the Commons, for example through smart energy management? His current research investigates the links between institutions, computer science, and multi-agent systems and he is applying his work in a number of areas including smart grids, community energy systems, and cloud computing.

This seminar is free and all are welcome to attend.

Event date
Event Time
Keele Hall, The Old Library
Steve Kilner or Jo Flynn
Contact email
Contact telephone
01782 7 34449 / 34434