Multi-criteria Assessment

Why is multi-criteria assessment important for Smart Local Energy Systems?

Smart local energy systems (SLES) can bring a range of benefits, but there is currently no clear consensus on what a “successful” SLES is. Measures to define success need to be identified across all areas, from environmental impact to social, technological and financial performance.

Multi-criteria assessment methods are used to analyse the performance of complex systems and understand the trade-offs between different factors. As such, they can be used to provide reliable information on the strengths and weaknesses of different SLES options. A range of different metrics are used to do this, such as technical performance or financial viability.

The outputs of a multi-criteria assessment provide stakeholders with impartial evidence to help them make decisions. They can also identify barriers that are limiting the development of SLES, in turn helping to increase confidence and reduce risk, potentially leading to the wider adoption of revolutionary SLES.

What are the EnergyREV team doing in this area?

EnergyREV is developing and building upon existing multi-criteria assessment tools to meet SLES requirements.

Our methodology has built upon an extensive review of existing evaluation and multi-criteria assessment tools, together with other outputs from across EnergyREV, to develop a set of processes for a fair evaluation of SLES projects across a broad range of success metrics. These track the performance of the system and the realisation of potential benefits – with the latter aligned to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

These success metrics are being combined into a single multi-criteria assessment tool focussing on six key themes:

  • Technical performance
  • Data management
  • Governance
  • People and living
  • Business and economics

This tool is intended to be used to take a snapshot of the performance of an SLES project across a number of areas of success. This will be demonstrated on the Prospering from an Energy Revolution (PFER) Demonstrator and Design projects, enabling stakeholders to identify progression towards success in the key areas that are relevant to their project.

The outputs of this multi-criteria assessment will help provide  information about the performance of the PFER projects,  give information about the potential for SLES to meet the aspirations of the PFER programme and will also provide information for stakeholders to identify the key areas where there are opportunities for improvement in a SLES.

How is EnergyREV exploring these issues?

We are developing and publishing a multi-criteria evaluation methodology for SLES with accompanying analysis tools. This will be freely available to decision makers.

Initially we worked to identify metrics of  success (or failure) for a SLES. This looked at metrics within the available literature, and then identified  those of particular relevance to SLES through a series of workshops with a broad range of stakeholders.

This engagement was critical to ensuring that a diverse range of views was considered in identifying appropriate criteria to assess a SLES. We are also collating information from across the EnergyREV consortium, to feed in broader research insights to inform the assessment criteria.

Further engagement with stakeholders has helped us  to understand how to combine the metrics within the multi-criteria assessment. We now plan to carry out a series of semi-structured interviews with key experts  to produce a coherent multi-criteria assessment tool. This will be trialled and further developed through application to a number of case studies, which will include PFER Demonstrator and Design projects.

What are the emerging insights?

There is a need for a single, simplified and technology agnostic multi-criteria assessment tool for SLES to understand and demonstrate the benefits they can bring and under what conditions.

The initial research suggests that there is little appetite amongst stakeholders for comparing different types of SLES, but rather for identifying the benefits and performance of the system relative to its own intended performance. As such, there is a need for an independent standardised assessment tool to help SLES developers to benchmark progress against the project aspirations.

Meet the team

Theme Lead: David Ingram

Co-Investigator: Camilla Thomson

Researcher: Christina Francis



Report - Developing a Multi-Criteria Assessment Framework for Smart Local Energy Systems (July 2020)

Conference Paper - Developing the framework for multi-criteria assessment of smart local energy systems (July 2020)