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Multi-objective decision making: A critical analysis of the applicability of renewable energy technologies

Nina P. Rudduck

Engineering Honours Degree 2005

University of Adelaide


This thesis is part of a 4th Year Honours Project undertaken at the Australian School of Petroleum. It provides a demonstration of the MODM method by undertaking a study of the currently available renewable energies and their applicability for implementation by Santos.

In the case of renewable energy technology and its future commercialisation, it is important to note that for planning and decision making a simple cost minimisation is not sufficient to wholly describe the commercial/business potential. For this reason, Multi-Objective Decision Making (MODM), rather than simply a pure economic analysis, is essential to describe the situation/scenario in order to make unbiased and forward thinking decisions. This project’s aim is to demonstrate MODM as a powerful technique providing Santos with a framework that can be used to make an investment (business) decisions.

The thesis outlines the methodology of MODM in deciding between defined alternatives when there are multiple decision criteria present. By expressing the problem in a table the analyser can phrase the problem in a way that enables them to systematically handle large amounts of information and conflicting points of view. By studying the company’s own set of priorities (value structure) a list of the decision criteria was developed. By ranking the renewable energies against these decision criteria Santos’ most applicable technologies were Photo Voltaic Cell, Geo Sequestration and Parabolic Dish respectively.

This study highlights how MODM can be easily modified to accommodate different types of alternatives, providing the flexibility to compare Geo Sequestration along with the renewable energies demonstrates. Other key findings that surfaced during the analysis were: value functions make no drastic difference to this particular problem, MODM is powerful in including additional different alternatives (e.g. Geo Sequestration), and results are very dependant on the validity of input data.

The analysis also demonstrated the importance of dedicating enough time to establishing the scope of the study and also verifying the validity of input data. The effect of not adequately defining the scope was that insufficient time was spent investigating the pitfalls and fully scrutinising the method for dependencies or bias.

Active involvement by Santos encouraged the future success of the understanding and implementation of this decision making technique. However, for subsequent analyses the key recommendations are:
•    The use of cut-offs.
•    The Delphi process should be used to its full potential, specifically with more stakeholders involved.
•    Alternative analysis should be considered, in particular sensitivity analysis and influence diagrams.
•     Australian specific input data is required.

Australian School of Petroleum



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