Towards the Comprehensive Design of Energy Infrastructures

Daniel Scholten, Rolf Kunneke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
99 Downloads (Pure)


Energy infrastructures are increasingly perceived as complex, adaptive socio-technical systems. Their design has not kept up; it is still fragmented between an engineering and economic dimension. While economists focus on a market design that addresses potential market failures and imperfections, opportunistic behavior, and social objectives, engineers pay attention to infrastructure assets, a robust network topology, and control system design to handle flows and eventualities. These two logics may be complementary, but may also be at odds. Moreover, it is generally unclear what design choices in one dimension imply for the other. As such, we are ill-equipped to identify, interpret, and address the challenges stemming from technical innovations, e.g., the integration of renewable energy technologies, and institutional changes, e.g., liberalization or new forms of organization like cooperatives, which often have interrelated operational and market implications. In response, this paper proposes a more comprehensive design framework that bridges the engineering and economic perspectives on energy infrastructure design. To this end, it elaborates the different design perspectives and develops the means to relate design variables of both perspectives along several layers of abstraction: the form of infrastructure access of actors, the division of responsibilities among actors, and type of coordination between actors. The intention is that this way system and market design efforts can be better attuned to each other and we further our understanding and conceptualization of the interrelationship between the techno-operational and economic-institutional dimensions of energy infrastructures. The framework also aids in overseeing the broader institutional implications of technical developments (and vice versa) and stimulates awareness of lock-ins and path-dependencies in this regard.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • energy infrastructures
  • system design
  • market design
  • comprehensive institutional design
  • OA-Fund TU Delft


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