Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Electrical Engineering


Electrical energy generation and distribution systems are good examples of complex systems. They include continuous, discrete, and social dynamics. They are operated by millions of human and non-human (or electro-mechanical) agents, and they show statistical properties found in other complex systems, such as power-law distributions in failure sizes. A number of recent large blackouts in Europe and North America have emphasized the societal importance of understanding these dynamics. Classical electromagnetic analysis alone frequently does not provide the insight required to characterize and mitigate risks in the electricity infrastructure. The objective of this thesis is to obtain insights into the dynamics of power grids using tools from the science of complex systems. In particular, this thesis will compare the topology, electrical structure, and attack/failure tolerance of power grids with those of theoretical graph structures such as regular, random, small-world, and scale-free networks. Simulation results in this thesis will describe the cost of the disturbances as a function of failure or attack sizes. The cost associated with network perturbations is often measured by changes on the diameter or average path length, whereas in the electricity industry, the loss of power demand (or blackout size) is the best indicator of the cost or impact of disturbances to electricity infrastructure.