Toward better sustainability: prioritization of distributed energy systems


Presently, distributed energy systems have attracted significant attention of researchers globally. This can be attributed to their high energy efficiency thus meeting the end user energy demands. Consequently, distributed energy systems have been beneficial in reducing the energy consumption and greenhouse gases emission thereby enhancing sustainability. Currently, several distributed energy systems including photovoltaic solar, wind turbines among others have been developed. As such, selecting the most efficient system for a particular use has been a great challenge among various end users. For instance, several techniques and models based on energy performance have been developed to help customers select the appropriate energy systems. Unfortunately, most of these approaches do not take into consideration the environmental and social objectives and thus have remained of little help.

Scientists have identified several research gaps that should be bridged to allow sustainable design of distributed energy systems that will account for the environmental and social objectives as well as the end users’ opinions regarding such systems. Alternatively, this will allow proper evaluation and ranking of the alternative distributed energy systems based on the multi-criteria decision-making approaches. Unfortunately, several uncertainties emerge during ranking these energy systems. Therefore, the development of appropriate approaches for addressing these uncertainties and simultaneously solving the aforementioned gaps is highly desirable.

To this note, Dr. Zhenfeng Wang, Professor Guangyin Xu, Dr. Heng Wang from Henan Agricultural University together with Professor Jingzheng Ren from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University developed a comprehensive method for assessing the data uncertainties in the ranking of the distributed energy systems. Fundamentally, they combined the interval VIKOR and Decision-Making Trail and Evaluation Laboratory (DEMATEL) methods to develop a more efficient multi-criteria decision-making approach. These two methods were used to address the uncertainties and evaluate the ranking criteria respectively. The work is currently published in the journal, Energy.

Briefly, the research team explored four different distributed energy systems: fuel cell, gas turbine, internal engine combustion, and photovoltaic systems. Next, they investigated the sustainability of the systems by establishing a ranking based weighted evaluation criteria taking into account several factors such as costs, technological changes, energy consumption, greenhouses gases emissions, and genal social acceptance.

The authors observed that the photovoltaic and the combustion engine systems were the most and least sustainable systems respectively. Additionally, the weight of criteria exhibited a significant influence on the ranking of the above-investigated energy distributed systems.

In summary, the authors succeeded in developing a comprehensive approach for addressing the various preferences, judgments, and opinions of various shareholders and end-users in selecting the most appropriate distributed energy systems. Altogether, the study will advance the future development of advanced multi-criteria decision analysis for the sustainability ranking of the distributed energy systems by considering other factors like the contribution and importance of stakeholders.

About the author

Dr. Zhenfeng Wang received his BSc in 2003 and PhD in 2011 (under Professor Xu Wang) at College of Mechanical Engineering, Chongqing University. After graduation, he became lecturer in College of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Henan Agricultural University. In 2015, he became associate professor.

His present research concerns energy planning management and agricultural logistics engineering.

About the author

Prof. Guangyin Xu received his BSc in 1984 and PhD in 2010 (under Professor Shengqiang Shen) in the school of Mechanical Engineering, Dalian University of Technology. He became lecturer, associate professor and professor in college of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Henan Agricultural University. Since 2011, he has been Dean of the College of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Henan Agricultural University.

His present research concerns energy planning management and agricultural engineering.

About the author

Dr. Heng Wang received the B.S. degree from Henan Agricultural University in 2008, and received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in communication and information system from Chongqing University in 2012 and 2015, respectively. Now, he is a lecturer with college of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering of Henan Agricultural University.

The main interest of his research along these years focused on the study of distributed energy system and multi-criteria decision-making.

About the author

Dr. Jingzheng Ren is currently an Assistant Professor of Energy System Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and an Honorary Associate Professor of Energy System Engineering at the Department of Technology and Innovation, University of Southern Denmark. He has a broad international background from positions in China, Italy, Denmark and Sweden and consequently a wide international network of collaborators.

He serves as the Editor of Sustainable Production and Consumption (Elsevier), Associate Editor of Environment, Development and Sustainability (Springer), Associate Editor of Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (AIP), Associate Editor of Renewable Energy & Sustainable Development and Guest Editor of several leading SCI indexed international Journals with impact factors.

He has published more than 130 publications including more than 110 journal papers, 5 edited books published (including will be published) in Elsevier , 12 book chapters, and 9 conference papers in the finest international journals and books of his field  i.e. AIChE J, Computers & Chemical Engineering, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, Energy, Energy Conversion and Management, International Journal of Energy Research, Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Bioresource Technology, Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Science of the Total Environment, Chemosphere, Journal of Cleaner Production, Waste Management, Habitat International, International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, and Energy Policy. Seven of his papers have been selected as the ESI top 1% highly cited papers and two have been highlighted as the Key Scientific Article contributing to the excellence in Energy research.

Based on his academic performances he was interviewed by the most read newspaper in Denmark, Jyllands-Posten, in the column of famous names in Denmark and was also featured in the Ny Viden (New Science) magazine. For his excellence in energy research, he is recurrently invited to give lectures in many countries, i.e. Japan, Italy, China, Greece, Switzerland, Finland, and Sweden, etc..


Wang, Z., Xu, G., Wang, H., & Ren, J. (2019). Distributed energy system for sustainability transition: A comprehensive assessment under uncertainties based on interval multi-criteria decision-making method by coupling interval DEMATEL and interval VIKOREnergy169, 750-761.

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