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Creating user value through mathematics – the challenge of hidden states

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Energy systems are large complex, and expensive, often significantly regulated and delivered through policy interventions. They are paid for through user charges, supported by taxation. Moving away from fossil fuels creates new systems challenges to meet user needs. Understanding these needs is an important element in meeting them, as the supply paradigm changes.Energy use is incidental to daily life – visiting friends, going to work, eating, keeping clean and comfortable etc are the things that matter to users. Control has a critical part to play in managing large loads such as vehicle charging or space heating. How do we understand the user intent behind the energy use and represent it in our mathematics?There are two kinds of hidden states in energy use systems – physical and psychological states. Control systems have direct impact on physical states, and psychological states through the user experience. This talk considers the functional needs of the user, their need for agency and the transaction cost from their perspective of engaging with the control systems for their house or car. It does not consider consumer segmentations on functional, affective and symbolic dimensions. Although in principle, hidden physical states can be discovered by measurement, often this is not practical.Control of heating systems and vehicle charging should aim to deliver satisfied users at lowest system cost. Although the talk will not cover in detail how to estimate current supply side state and forecast its co-evolution with aggregate demand over the control period, it will consider in general terms how this might interact with user needs and willingness to pay.The talk will not cover mathematical solutions to the challenges. It is intended to illuminate the real-world problems that will require advanced mathematics to deliver effective solutions.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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