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Proper and improper uses of MCDA methods in energy systems analysis

In this article, Marco Cinelli, assistant professor at Leiden University College The Hague, examines proper and improper uses of Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) methods in energy systems analysis.

Marco Cinelli, Peter Burgherr, Milosz Kadzínski, Roman Slowínski
27 August 2022
Proper and improper uses of MCDA methods in energy systems analysis

Over the past few decades, the strategies to perform energy systems analysis have evolved into multiple criteria-based frameworks. However, there still remains a lack of guidance on how to select the most suitable Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) method. These methods provide different decision recommendations for the Decision Makers, including ranking, sorting, choice, and clustering of the alternatives (e.g., technologies or scenarios) under evaluation. They deal with a variety of data typologies and preferences, and lead Decision Makers in shaping the energy systems of the future. Here, we evaluate the MCDA methods used in 56 case studies performing energy systems analysis at different scales. This article finds that close to 60% of these studies chose an MCDA method that was not the most adequate for the respective decision problem. In particular, this concerned the use of weighting methods (e.g., Analytical Hierarchy Process) in MCDA approaches not suited for this type of weights, sub-optimal selection of MCDA techniques for specific types of problem statements, and lack of handling rather evident interactions in preference models. The analysis of this article demonstrates that these deficiencies can be overcome by using a recently developed methodology and software that support Decision Makers and analysts in selecting the most suitable MCDA method for a given type of decision-making problem.

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