December 2016

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Eight Agents for Energy

The descriptions below refer to electric power for clarity and brevity. The agent behaviors apply to any resource micromarket.

Toby ConsidineToby Considine
TC9 Inc

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The Energy Mashup Lab (The Lab) is developing open source software for agents that will enable systems that use, produce, or store energy to self-assemble into microgrids. These microgrids can be standalone or grid-attached. If grid-attached, they present a single market or OpenADR interface to the grid, and that interface reveals only the net market position of the microgrid.

The microgrid is operated by a micromarket, trading in availability over time. The Lab uses open standards to transact between agents. Each system or group of systems being represented by an autonomous merchant agent that buys or sells Power for those systems. The software for this agent is Open Source and can be freely downloaded for use in products.

While there is a simplicity in a single Agent, we think there are benefits to creating more than one type of agent. While a single agent running a single set of code could encompass all behaviors could be created, agents that are optimized for specific types of market behavior can be smaller and more secure. Naming similar market behaviors across systems makes it easier for the integrator to understand how introducing an additional system will affect an existing micromarket/microgrid. We name these the Agent Personalities.

The descriptions below refer to electric power for clarity and brevity. The agent behaviors apply to any resource micromarket.


Each Agent Personality denotes a common set of market behaviors.


A homeostasis agent represents a system that consumes power episodically to support it’s a purpose external to the resource market. A homeostatic agent schedules power purchases to support providing a service external to the grid.

Two examples of systems that would use a Homeostatic Agent are an air conditioning system and a refrigerator. Each of them buys power to support processes that support a service external to the grid. Neither wants to run unless it is able to buy the entire power curve it needs for its next cycle. Each could advance or delay its purchases to some, or even skip a cycle, without harming the service it provides.


A preconsumption agent is similar to the homeostatic agent, but it provides an asynchronous server and therefore has a bias to buying only when the price is low. The system is able to increase consumption in the short term to enhance its ability to provide service at a future time. If the refrigerator is a homeostatic agent, the ice-maker may be a pre-consumption agent. There may be overrides to the behavior, i.e., fill up before the party, or high priority when less than a quarter full.


Base Consumer uses power continuously when the system it represents is providing a service. An example is a light which is either lit and consuming power, or is unlit and not consuming power. An agent representing one or many lightbulbs on a circuit changes in scale only. A base consumer is almost always a high-priority purchaser in the market.


A Tiered Consumer differs from a Base Consumer in that it may be able to reduce power consumption by providing a lower level of services. An example is a dimmable light. More power might provide a better service, or a different service. Using for example the dimmable light again, a low level of light might support movement, a high level of light support reading, and a higher level of light support personal grooming.


A Base Supplier supplies power continuously. A Base Supplier might include any controllable generator with a long cycle time. Long cycle time is situationally defined.


A Market Driven Supplier supplies power intermittently, based on interactions within the microgrid.


An Intermittent Market Supplier supplies power intermittently, based upon inputs external to the microgrid. An example is a photovoltaic system, which generates power when the sun shines.


A Storage Agent is able to consume resources later supply the same resource. It stores power. This is similar to a system able to preconsume, but it is able to bring some portion of its preconsumption back to the market at a later time.

Control Solutions, Inc THE PLATFORM AGENTS

Any of the Agents Personalities named above can in principal interact with any other agent through bilateral transactions. Some markets might be set up with all tenders going to a single entity who manages all transactions.


The Broker acts as an agent by executing public orders. It may operate a double auction. The Broker does not itself have a position in any trade. (Transactions to power the broker are an exception). In the home, a home router may act as a broker.


A Market Maker acts as a Broker by executing public orders left. A Market Maker further maintains an orderly resource market with a responsibility to buy for its own account in the absence of public buy orders, and sell from its own account in the absence of public sell orders. The Market Maker personality may be associated with Storage or with external market sales and purchases. External market sales and purchases are not part of the internal maker that operates the microgrid.


Each of the simple agent personalities could characterize a single node or a collection of nodes. Microgrids can be characterized just as nodes are characterized. This point is fundamental to considering interactions within aggregations of microgrids, as to considering the dis-aggregation of a node into smaller component systems.

A system or device developer will be able to select the personality that he desires to represent his technology, and download it.

A set of agents sufficient to support systems with each of these characteristics is able to support all systems potentially within a microgrid. Such a set does not rule out potential hybrid systems, in which two or more of these characteristics coexist within a single system—such a system is a natural outcome of a microgrid at one level being a node at a higher level.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (


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