Getting to Yes : The Sustainable Energy Modeling Project ( SEMPro ) Model of Infrastructure Siting

Abstract

Social, economic and political constraints are critical barriers to the development of new renewable energy supplies. SEMPro is an agent-based, predictive analytics model that simulates how competing interests shape energy siting outcomes. Using a Southern California high voltage transmission line as a case study, we integrate project engineering, institutional, land use attributes and residential demographics. We model citizen attitudinal, Community Based Organization emergence and behavioral diffusion of support and opposition with cooperative game theory. We also simulate the competitive policy process and interaction between agency stakeholders using a non-cooperative game theory. We find CBO formation, utility and NGO messaging have a positive impact on citizen comments submitted as a part of the Environmental Impact Statement process, while project need and procedure have a negative impact. NGO and utility messaging modestly influences citizen opinions, but have the counterintuitive effect of increasing citizen opposition as citizens are mobilized by stronger messaging. As citizens communicate and across greater distances, less CBOs form but they are more effective and increase the number of citizen messages. Prepared for the Computational Social Science Society of the Americas Call for Papers: CSSSA 2012 Santa Fe, New Mexico September 18-21, 2012 SEMPro Santa Fe CSS Submission Yang, Abdollahian, Nelson & Close 2 1 Introduction Technical, environment, social, economic and political constraints are critical barriers to the development of new renewable energy supplies. The Sustainable Energy Modeling Project, or SEMPro, reconceptualizes how we “get to yes” on siting new renewable energy supplies. We focus on how competing interests shape siting outcomes and identify actionable strategies to help build energy infrastructure in a more timely and less conflictual manner that current processes typically allow. Traditional regulatory processes pit entrenched stakeholders with diverse interests against each other repeatedly, often in adversarial settings. This encourages opposition to the “other” side’s proposals. This project is strategically different, opting for transparency in the process, asking the community to engage and respond, versus react and oppose. SEMPro is an agent-based, predictive analytics model of the energy siting policy in the techno-social space [27]. Agents are homeowners, regulators, US resource agencies, utilities, power producers, environmental organizations, and others with an interest in siting that interact against the backdrop of political institutions, proposed infrastructure siting routes, the local populace and the environment. Agents’ preferences are fed into the model which uses game theory, bargaining dynamics, and network theory to predict agents’ actions and reactions in the policy mileau. Cutting-edge social science tools like SEMPro can enable regions to meet their climate and energy targets from renewables. The SEMPro simulation results offer ideas about policy levers, issue linkage strategies, bargaining positions, and other tactical and strategic advice to users about how to reach consensus on any issue given its dynamics. This illuminates both what matters for moving from stewardship to sustainability, in terms of tactics and strategies for any particular situation, but more importantly how-to align disparate interests, towards sustainability. We believe that approaches like SEMPro can serve as an exploratory platform for ideas about issue framing, enable regions to meet their climate and energy targets from renewables, scenarios analysis to explore key uncertainties, and can identify equitable solutions supported by communities. 2 Electricity Policy Dynamics Background Growing consumer demand for environmental sustainability coupled with new regulatory requirements have increased pressure on utilities, stakeholders, and government officials to find new and creative solutions to the complex problems of sustainable resource use. But because of the complexity of these issues, public policy debates have typically occurred at the elite level without significant input by ordinary citizens, especially those in underserved communities. While most everyone can agree that reducing carbon emissions and increasing use of renewable energy are worthy goals, competing interests among various constituencies can make implementation difficult. This is particularly problematic in most areas where urban demands for power are increasing but the most cost-effective renewable resources are located outside load centers. While regulators and consumers are demanding more energy from renewable sources, stakeholders, including a variety of regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over various aspects of such projects, property owners who typically do not want new power plants or transmission lines in their field of view. Environmental activists who are concerned about biodiversity, aesthetic, and water quality issues are effectively delaying or blocking new transmission siting. SEMPro’s results-oriented processes and outputs address a vacuum of social science computational research on technosocial issues in sustainability. The current application of SEMPro is high voltage electricity transmission line expansion, but the model and data collection methodology can be applied to any infrastructure siting project with significant externalities, including roads, recycling facilities, water treatment plants, natural gas and oil pipelines, and electricity generation facilities. 2.1 Modeling Policy Components and Benefits SEMPro modeling, simulation and planning tool that combines uses Geographical Information System (GIS) data to identify communities with strategic interests that compliment key stakeholders’ positions. The GIS data provides a measure of “political sensitivity” by census block groups. This data include demographics, economic and political variables for territory identified in the study: income, housing type and density, educational attainment, project engineering and geophysical characteristics. Agent Based Models (ABMs) are ‘bottom up’ micro simulations of heterogeneous individual agents, that allow users to create, analyze, and experiment with models composed of multiple agents (NGOs, regulators, individuals) that simultaneously SEMPro Santa Fe CSS Submission Yang, Abdollahian, Nelson & Close 3 interact with each other in an environment that includes the legal and social framework of a policy issue. The model represents complex social realities by formally representing various stakeholders and their interests [27]. Fig. 1. SEMPro Overview SEMPro begins with an exploration of the transmission siting issue represented in Figure 1. In this case agents are stakeholders, including community residents, homeowners associations, relevant government jurisdictions, environmental advocacy groups, and the local electric utility. The attributes of each type of agent are inferred from citizen and stakeholder surveys. These preferences determine rules for interaction within the policy environment. This element of the project is explored in more detail below. The relative power and preferences of each agent are represented in the bargaining module of the model. Spatial bargaining theories from microeconomics simulate the potential for policy compromises and tradeoffs across groups. The intuition behind these theories models the pulling and hauling of the policy process, where groups trade what they do not want for what they do want. Groups trade concession on issues they don’t have strong feelings about for issues where they do care (high salience). Between two groups, this is a simple and intuitive exercise. The actual model is much more sophisticated than this as it simulates multiple groups’ preferences, power simultaneously, and overlays actual geography or other physical attributes, mapping preferences onto parcels of land for transmission siting. To develop SEMPro for this policy issue, surveys and other data collection efforts assign each agent a project opposition score on a 0 (support) to 100 (oppose) scale, to determine the salience or importance of the issue to them, and the power that each agent has in determining the outcome. The groups’ scores for salience, power, and positions are then fed into the model which uses game theory, bargaining dynamics, and network theory to predict agents’ actions. 2.2 Literature Review The SEMPro model has been developed using a range of relevant social science theories grouped into three categories. The first type of theoretical and empirical support for the model development are siting opposition from psychometric risk analyses, land use planning, and environmental impact assessments literature. Citizen opposition is a function of a) perceived risk from the infrastructure project [13] b) proximity or distance to the project [12] c) the land use attributes of the land parcels [11] and d) expected property value impacts due to visual impairment and health and safety concerns [17]. SEMPro Santa Fe CSS Submission Yang, Abdollahian, Nelson & Close 4 Cain and Nelson [7] integrate and evaluate these diverse literatures and argue that understanding citizen opposition is not adequate to explain observed siting outcomes. Because infrastructure siting is typically governed under Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) processes, these institutional variables are also included in the SEMPro model. Research shows that EIS processes are typically not influenced by explicit environmental or social outcomes, but rather by political concerns and elite preferences [29, 18]. The stakeholder and regulator modules explicitly include elite preferences that shape environmental outcomes. These include citizen trust in the sponsoring entity or agency [9]. In order to support a project, citizens need to think that decisionmakers will honestly include their preferences [16]. The second body of literature that governs citizen agent interactions comes from communications. The two basic theoretical foundations of the SEMPro model are how people communicate about important societal issues, and what affect that communication has on the views people hold. Shannon and Weaver describe communication as a “source” transmitting a “message” via a “channel” to a “receiver” [10]. These messages are subject to noise and distortion. Even in an age of cheap and easy electronic communication, proximity between a source and a receiver are important. Geographic proximity leads to greater frequency of communication and building of ties [20]. Berlo’s Communications Penetration Model describes how these messages may not be received or accepted because the receiver is not exposed to the message, does not pay attention to the message or does not accept the sentiment of the message [5]. Social Judgment Theory describes how the positions of two agents can be conceived along a Downsian continuum and distance between these positions affects the likelihood of one accepting the other’s position. A message that is close to a receiver’s position has little effect because it is not difference enough to cause a large change, and one that is far from a receiver’s position is likely to be rejected, but messages “at a moderate distance” from the receiver’s position may be able to have a strong influence [25]. Messages can be repeated multiple times and via various channels to increase the likelihood of acceptance [10]. People also exhibit homophily, a tendency to associate more with people like themselves, and homophily promotes communication because messages are both more frequent and more successful between similar people [23]. Additionally, individuals with higher confidence are less likely to change their position based on communication [4]. That is, the message, the source, and the receiver are all important in determining whether a message is accepted. The third and final category of literature comes from expected utility and game theories to govern CBO formation, as well as stakeholder and regulatory bargaining and coalition formation. Expected utility has been described as the “major paradigm in decision making” [24] CBO formation is based on cooperative game theory [26]. Citizens will join CBOs if it increases their power to potentially influence the regulatory process as long as the CBO’s position is acceptable given the citizen’s initial position [19].

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Yang2012GettingTY, title={Getting to Yes : The Sustainable Energy Modeling Project ( SEMPro ) Model of Infrastructure Siting}, author={Q Yang and Nelson Abdollahian and Close and Zining Yang and Mark Abdollahian and Hal Nelson and Brett E Close and Sempro Santa and Fe Css and Submission Yang}, year={2012} }