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Game Theory in Power Grid Management

In this Research Matters article, Arul Ganesh speaks on the work of Dr. Ankur Kulkarni, of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and his efforts to apply Game Theory and the concept of Nash equilibrium to the power grid. Ganesh describes the power grid as the transmission and distribution of electricity across a large network made up of connected power lines, with his main goal to have as little energy loss as possible. This is an important issue as alternative energy sources such as solar and wind are being explored in depth, and in order to have effective use of these newer resources there needs to be an effective means to use such energy.

Game theory can be and has been used to calculate maximum benefit in many different problems, with Nash equilibrium in mind especially. Dr. Kulkarni in his work suggests the use of a “game-theoretic framework” to help the issue of supply and demand in the use of alternative energy sources in the power grid. Ganesh describes how in this game Kulkarni modeled the consumer, who of course controls the demand, as constrained by total energy and price per unit of power – a decision that would be controlled by the supply side. Kulkarni believes a Nash equilibrium is a definite possibility given certain assumptions such as how many consumers there are and the actual prices and power totals. Kulkarni’s work and research details his own theory in the effective design of future power distribution systems, uses game theory and Nash equilibrium to provide the backing for that theory. Ganesh describes this as an example of “how abstract mathematical theories can help the development of technology and accelerate progress.” Kulkarni in his work and game theory mathematics attempts to prove the possibility of designing an optimally effective power distribution system and how failing to follow this system would engender consumer loss.

This is quite relevant to our coursework in Networks, as we have learned about different applications of both game theory and Nash equilibrium. While we have been using examples such as traffic routes and athletics, this article provides a more progressive perspective into the uses of game theory and the ways that it can help fuel social benefit.

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September 2018