Holistic Evaluation of Digital Applications in the Energy Sector - Evaluation Framework Development, Test, and Validation

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Title: Holistic Evaluation of Digital Applications in the Energy Sector - Evaluation Framework Development, Test, and Validation
Authors: Weigel, Paul
Thesis advisor: PD Dr. Peter Viebahn
Thesis referee: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Manfred Fischedick
Abstract: Digital technologies have developed exponentially in recent decades. This trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future, bringing about massive changes in society and the economy. Although in some industries, digital transformation itself is the driver of change, this is not the case in the energy sector. Due to the need for decarbonization, the energy sector is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation from a demand-driven central system mainly based on fossil fuels to a supply-driven decentral system based on renewable energies. Digitalization is not in itself driving this transformation, yet it may be an enabler and accelerator. Digital technologies are expected to play an increasingly important role in the future energy system. How this role will look like depends on both the emerging requirements of the decarbonization transformation as well as the future development of information and communication technologies. Due to the increasingly significant impacts that digital applications cause, a holistic view on these impacts is imperative to avoid adverse effects while maximizing benefits. Such a holistic view must cover the relevant impact areas, include the relevant stakeholders' perspectives, and involve representatives of the relevant stakeholder groups. However, this holistic view of the digital transformation itself or specific digital applications does not, to the best of the author’s knowledge, yet exist in the concurrent literature, constituting a content gap. The assessment of available evaluation approaches and methods reveals a corresponding methodological gap. Therefore, the goal of this dissertation is to develop a framework for the holistic evaluation of digital applications in the energy sector. To achieve this goal, an approach is defined in line with three research questions. First, potential digital applications are categorized, and their characteristics are identified. Second, evaluation requirements are derived. Third, available evaluation approaches and methods are assessed against the requirements, and a potentially suitable combination of three methods is identified. Subsequently, a framework based on these methods is developed. Lastly, the framework is tested by evaluating two digital applications, improved, and its suitability is validated against the defined requirements. Hence, the main novelty of this thesis is the presented framework comprised of the combination of the three methods, the adaption to digital applications in the energy sector, and the resulting holistic evaluation results. The results and conclusions obtained in this dissertation consist of three parts. The first part is the overview and categorization of digital applications in the energy sector, including associated benefits and impacted stakeholders. It is concluded that digital applications are very diverse in nature and can be categorized by their area of impact, system balancing, process optimization, and customer orientation. The categorization is relevant as a basis for further research. The second part of the results is the evaluation framework itself. The framework is based on the combination of three well-established methods, multi-criteria analysis (MCA), life cycle assessment (LCA), and expert interviews, and covers technical, ecological, economic, and socio-political aspects. Based on a suitability assessment, it is concluded that the framework is well suited for the holistic evaluation of digital applications in the energy sector and therefore closes the identified methodological gap. The third part consists of the evaluation of two digital applications, namely the “smart meter” roll-out in Germany and a standalone "ADLS” (Aircraft Detection Lighting Systems) for wind turbines prior to its expected roll-out in Germany. Both applications are very relevant and highly discussed in their respective areas. The evaluation delivers aggregated high-level results as well as detailed insights regarding risks and obstacles. These results are of high relevance for the involved stakeholders to find solutions for the identified risks and obstacles, maximize the benefits and ensure a smooth and quick roll-out. The tests constitute not only the first applications of the framework but also the first holistic evaluations of the two evaluated digital applications and hence contribute to closing the identified content gap. In a future advancement, the methodology of the framework could be extended by applying fuzzy MCA logic and integrating life cycle costing (LCC) as well as social life cycle assessment (SLCA). Prospectively, with an increasing number of performed evaluations, not only the results of specific digital applications can be discussed and compared, but increasingly, the basis for a broader discussion regarding digitalization as a transformative process is created.
URL: https://doi.org/10.48693/522
Subject Keywords: Digitalization; Energy sector; Holistic evaluation; Multi criteria analysis; Life cycle assessment; Sustianability; Cyber-physical systems
Issue Date: 29-Feb-2024
License name: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany
License url: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/
Type of publication: Dissertation oder Habilitation [doctoralThesis]
Appears in Collections:FB06 - E-Dissertationen

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