Featured Article: Recent innovative applications of OR in Energy and Environment Research


Ever since its early days, Operations Research has been offering both researchers and practitioners a vast set of models and methods to deal with existent and potential problems of distinct nature arising in the energy sector in a creative, efficient, and effective manner. Areas of application range from the petroleum, gas, and electricity industries to the local and national planning, encompassing an array of problems, from technical and operational issues to policy design, short- and long-term planning, systems management, and market modeling of energy systems. Among the techniques that have been successfully used over time for the sound decision support and successful resolution of such problems, we can mention linear programming, fuzzy models, game theory, stochastic programming, data envelopment analysis, and multi-criteria decision analysis.

Below are few of the most recent developments, wherein the tools used have been deemed suitable for being employed in planning and decision-making, providing competent solutions.

An article by Yu et al. (2017) proposes a multi-objective mixed integer programming scheme in order to provide valuable decision-making support on environmental investment, with an application to a typical coal mine in China. The model aims to maximize company profits, whilst simultaneously minimizing energy consumption and pollutant levels. The study also takes into consideration the various constraints on capital, resources, production processes and production capacity.

Another interesting innovative application concerns the offshore wind farm installation vessels and the scheduling of the operations for building the wind farms, which are highly dependent on weather and remarkably large components, conditions that can lead to considerable delays and interruptions. As planners need to make these decisions under the uncertain wind states, a deterministic offshore wind turbine installation model is not suitable to capture the uncertainties which may leave the vessel resource unused or vessel being sent offshore in unfavorable conditions. In this sense, Ursavas (2017) proposes a two-stage model that considers disruptions arising from uncertain weather conditions. As the compact formulation fails to provide solutions due to a large number of scenarios, an approach based on Benders decomposition is developed. The tool is applied to two major wind farm projects in the North Sea using real weather data over two years.

Optimizing the operation of a combined heat and power plant with heat storage according to forecasted electricity prices while fulfilling the customers’ power and heat demand represents a complex task. In a recent study, Kumbartzky et al. (2017) develop a multistage stochastic mixed-integer linear programming (MILP) model that simultaneously optimizes the operation of the combined heat and power plant with heat storage and bidding in sequential electricity markets, with an application to a municipal energy supply company in Germany. Price uncertainty is captured by developing stochastic process models. Results of the case study illustrate how trading in the considered electricity markets can lead to an increased profitability of the plant operation and a significant decrease of expected net acquisition costs.

Lastly, the article by Duran-Encalada et al. (2017) proposes a system dynamics model to understand the complex interaction of factors governing the quantity/quality of water and their effects on community development along the US–Mexico border. The model simulates, for a 70-year period, policies and decisions that have the potential to improve conditions and prevent risks that may lead to social unrest and hinder economic development.

As previously mentioned, Operations Research has proven to be efficient in providing the tools, models, and methods needed to address various problems of distinct nature arising in the energy sector. Today’s ongoing incessant changes in the energy sector, from the liberalization of the energy markets to the socio-economic and environmental concerns associated with activities from extraction to end-use of energy, in the framework of sustainable development, among others, will continue to give rise to new challenges as well as new opportunities for Operations Research.



  1. Duran-Encalada, J. A., Paucar-Caceres, A., Bandala, E. R., & Wright, G. H. (2017). The impact of global climate change on water quantity and quality: A system dynamics approach to the US–Mexican transborder region. European Journal of Operational Research, 256, 567–581.
  2. Kumbartzky, N., Schacht, M., Schulz, K., & Werners, B. (2017). Optimal operation of a CHP plant participating in the German electricity balancing and day-ahead spot market. European Journal of Operational Research, (In Press), 1–15.
  3. Ursavas, E. (2017). A benders decomposition approach for solving the offshore wind farm installation planning at the North Sea. European Journal of Operational Research, 258, 703–714.
  4. Yu, S., Zheng, S., Gao, S., & Yang, J. (2017). A multi-objective decision model for investment in energy savings and emission reductions in coal mining. European Journal of Operational Research, 260, 335–347.

(Edited by Tatiana Gherman)