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"Sustainable grid infrastructure : the co-evolution of socio-economic and socio-technical systems through micro-grid adoption".

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If our existence as a society, is within the bounds of a finite and dynamic environment; there exists and argument, that the ease of access to information has altered the search space within which our everyday reality operates. The purpose of this study is to align an enhanced understanding of Complexity science principles, towards the promotion of an alternative means of developing and understanding how the existing energy infrastructure functions. While simultaneously challenging the relationship between how, environmental (energy infrastructure) constraints, weather imposed or innate, relate to the internalities and externalities produced. An underlying aim and theme of this paper is the embracement of unavoidable environmental variations and how this can feasibly, and mutually aligns with the systems desire for structural rigidity, primarily through an investigation for the expansion of Microgrid development. The research focused on an existing medium sized commercial energy user in Durban with primary objective being the development of a deeper understanding of the case studies needs, as well as the potential role able to be played within the confines of the broader energy environment facilitated though an in-depth literature review on complexity science principles. The dissertation consists of two primary sections, a literature review and a case study. The literature review provides an understanding primarily on sustainability; complexity, rationality and behavioural characteristics while the case study then attempted to, first apply this knowledge to an existing energy user, before theoretically highlighting the aggregation potential within the energy environment if these principles are applied to the macro and micro components of the energy system on a broader scale. In conclusion, Microgrid potential was clearly evident for an individual or business. However, this benefit can only be extended to the collective if accurate and real-time data is used to coordinate energy usage and renewable production, allowing seamless energy export to the grid at a higher net rate then is currently afforded was further found to enhance the viability of investment in renewable generation and storage. This decentralised approach was found to provide further incentive and control for municipalities to safe guard themselves against future shortfalls in supply. Above pure efficiency, a decentralised distributed system consisting of multiple sources creates a system which is highly effective and by extension sustainable.


M. Sc. Eng. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2015.


Energy development -- Environmental aspects -- South Africa., Economics -- Sociological aspects., Sociotechnical systems., Sustainable living -- South Africa., Microgrids (Smart power grids), Theses -- Civil engineering.