Open Source Software (OSS) for
Electricity Market Research,
Teaching, and Training

Last Updated: 6 January 2016

Site maintained by:
Leigh Tesfatsion
Professor of Econ, Math, and ECpE
Economics Department/Heady 375
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa 50011-1070
tesfatsi AT

General Electricity Resources
Agent-Based Electricity Research
IEEE Task Force on Open-Source Software
Wholesale Power Market Schematic

Software Release Disclaimer:
All software provided below is unsupported and provided as-is, without warranty of any kind, unless otherwise specified by the provider.

Materials Linked to Date:


The U.S. electric power industry is currently undergoing substantial changes in both its structure (ownership and technology aspects) and its architecture (operational and oversight aspects). These changes involve attempts to move the industry away from highly regulated markets with administered cost-based pricing and towards competitive markets in which prices more fully reflect supply and demand forces. The goal of these changes is to provide industry participants with better incentives to control costs and introduce innovations. The process of enacting and implementing policies and laws to bring about these changes has come to be known as restructuring.

This restructuring process has been controversial. The meltdown in the restructured California wholesale power market in the summer of 2000 has demonstrated how unintended consequences can arise when complex market designs are implemented without sufficient pre-testing. Following the California crisis, many energy researchers have called for the development of test beds combining sound physical understanding of power system operations with economic analysis of incentives to help ensure that electricity market designs have good real-world performance characteristics.

Many commercially available packages for power system analysis now incorporate components critical for the simulation of restructured electricity markets (e.g. optimal power flow solvers). However, lack of open-source access prevents users from gaining a complete and accurate understanding of what has been implemented, restricts the ability of users to experiment with new software features, and hinders users from tailoring software to specific needs. In addition, these packages can be cumbersome to use for research, teaching, and training purposes requiring intensive experimentation and sensitivity analyses.

The goal of this resource site is to encourage the study of restructured electricity markets from a perspective that adequately addresses both economic and engineering concerns. Annotated pointers are provided to open source software (OSS) facilitating the modeling of electricity markets as commercial networks of strategically interacting traders and regulatory agencies learning to operate through time over realistically rendered transmission grids.

Suggestions regarding additional pertinent links for this resource site are most welcome. Links are sought for OSS libraries, computational laboratories, simulators, toolkits, evaluative studies, and management systems that could potentially facilitate electricity market research, teaching, and training.

OSS for Electricity Market Simulation

AMES Wholesale Power Market Test Bed (Java)

The AMES Wholesale Power Market Test Bed, developed entirely in Java by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Iowa State University, is a modular and extensible agent-based computational laboratory for studying the dynamic efficiency and reliability of wholesale power markets restructured in accordance with guidelines issued by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. AMES models strategically-learning traders interacting over time in an ISO-managed wholesale power market operating over a transmission grid subject to congestion effects. Congestion on the grid is managed by means of locational marginal prices derived from optimal power flow solutions.

AMES is a free open-source tool suitable for research, teaching, and training applications. It is designed for the intensive experimental study of small to medium-sized systems (2-500 nodes). A graphical user interface permits the creation, modification, analysis and storage of scenarios, parameter initialization and editing, specification of behavioral rules (e.g. learning methods) for market participants, and output reports through table and chart displays. AMES is an acronym for Agent-based Modeling of Electricity Systems.

JASA: Java Auction Simulator API

Steve Phelps (Ripple Software, LTD) has developed an open-source Java class library called JASA (Java Auction Simulator API) for the simulation of auctions with learning traders. Included in JASA are classes specifically developed for electricity auction simulation.

Tools for Assessment of Bidding Into Electricity Auctions (Java)

Steven Puller (Texas A&MB) and Ross Baldick (University of Texas, Austin) have developed a public domain academic-grade tool to assess the competitiveness of offers into electricity auctions operating over transmission grids subject to transmission constraints. The prototype is written in the Java language, and is released as open source software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). To obtain the zipped tool and example file, visit here.

Open Source Software for Optimal Power Flow

A key stumbling block to developing OSS for general academic research into restructured electricity markets in the U.S. and elsewhere is the lack of OSS for AC/DC optimal power flow (OPF) problems. In the U.S., market operators of restructured wholesale power markets must repeatedly solve AC/DC OPF problems in order to generate unit commitment and dispatch schedules, as well as locational marginal prices (LMPs), for both spot and forward energy markets.

Developing algorithms for the successful solution of optimization problems involving mixed collections of equality and inequality constraints, even when specialized to quadratic objective functions (as in DC OPF approximations to AC OPF problems), is a daunting task full of pitfalls for the unwary. (An excellent introduction to this topic can be found in R. Fletcher, Practical Methods of Optimization, Second Edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York, c. 1987.)

This section includes annotated pointers to OSS for AC/DC OPF problems.

DCOPFJ: A Bid/Offer-Based DC-OPF Solver (Java)

The DCOPFJ Package, developed entirely in Java by a team of researchers at Iowa State University, is a free open-source stand-alone solver for small to medium-sized bid/offer-based DC optimal power flow problems having a strictly convex quadratic programming (SCQP) formulation.

The DCOPFJ package incorporates an SCQP solver (QuadProgJ) wrapped in an outer SI-to-PU data processing shell. QuadProgJ implements the well-known dual active-set SCQP algorithm developed by Goldfarb and Idnani (1983). QuadProgJ has been shown to match or exceed the accuracy of the proprietary C-language QP solver BPMPD (highly recommended by MATPOWER) when tested on a public repository of small to medium-sized SCQP problems.

The DCOPFJ package has been successfully run on DC-OPF test cases commonly used for training purposes.


MATPOWER, developed by a team of researchers at Cornell University, is a package of MATLAB M-files for solving power flow and optimal power flow problems. It is intended as a simulation tool for researchers and educators that is easy to use and modify. MATPOWER is designed to give the best performance possible while keeping the code simple to understand and modify.

A detailed description of MATPOWER's OPF formulation can be obtained here: "MATPOWER's Extensible OPF Architecture" (pdf,228KB), by Ray D. Zimmerman, Carlos E. Murillo-Sánchez, and Robert J. Thomas.

Although MATPOWER is free of charge and open source, its use requires Matlab (version 5 or later) and the MATLAB Optimization Toolbox (for some OPF algorithms). MATLAB and the MATLAB Optimization Toolbox are commercial products whose kernels and libraries cannot be modified or freely distributed.

PSAT: Power System Analysis Toolbox (MATLAB-Based)

The Power System Analysis Toolbox (PSAT), developed by Federico Milano (University of Castilla-La Mancha), is a MATLAB-based software package for analysis and design of small to medium-sized electric power systems. The main features of PSAT include: power flow; continuation power flow; optimal power flow; small signal stability analysis; time-domain simulation; Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) placement; FACTS models; and wind turbine models. All operations can be accessed by means of graphical user interfaces, and a Simulink-based library provides a user-friendly tool for network design.

MATLAB is a commercial product whose kernel and libraries cannot be modified or freely distributed. However, PSAT can run on GNU/Octave, which is basically a free MATLAB clone.

Other Supporting Open Source Software

EPOCHS: Electric Power and Communication Synchronizing Simulator

EPOCHS is an agent-based distributed simulation environment that combines multiple research and commercial off-the-shelf systems: namely, the PSAD/EMTDC electromagnetic transient simulator, the PSLF elctromechanical transient simulator, and the Network Simulator 2 (NS2). The resulting combined simulator permits the study of electric power scenarios incorporating new communication protocols.

For more information about EPOCHS, see the following article: Kenneth Hopkinson, Xiaoru Wang, Renan Giovanini, James Thorp, Kenneth Birman, and Denis Coury, "EPOCHS: A Platform for Agent-Based Electric Power and Communication Simulation Built from Commercial Off-the-Shelf Components" (pdf,235KB), IEEE Transactions on Power Systems 21(2), 2006, 548-558.

Dia: Diagram Creation Program

Dia is a GTK+ based diagram creation program for GNU/Linux, MacOS X, Unix, and Windows, and is released under the GPL license. Dia is roughly inspired by the commercial Windows program 'Visio,' though more geared towards informal diagrams for casual use. It can be used to draw many different kinds of diagrams. It currently has special objects to help draw entity relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and many other diagrams. It is also possible to add support for new shapes by writing simple XML files, using a subset of SVG to draw the shape. For more information about Dia, visit here.

LP_Solve: Linear Programming Toolkit

LP_solve is a free linear (integer) programming solver based on the revised simplex method and the Branch-and-bound method for the integers. It contains full source, examples and manuals. LP_solve solves pure linear, (mixed) integer/binary, semi-continuous and special ordered sets (SOS) models. For general information about LP_Solve, visit here. For downloads, go to LP_Solve versions at

Michael Thomas Flanagan's Java Scientific Library

Michael Thomas Flanagan (EE, University College London, UKB) has developed and released as open-source software a Java scientific library to support both his own electrical engineering research and his undergraduate programming courses and projects. Included in the library are links to source files and documentation for classes handling a wide variety of numerical functions, including: inut/output; graph plotting; mathematical functions and physical constants; random numbers and deviates; error propagation; regression; optimization; Fourier transform and short-time Fourier transform; numerical integration; interpolation; root searching; matrices; complex arithmetic; circuits; impedance spectroscopy; optics; reflexivity; and control and system engineering routines.

Flanagan also provides Notes on Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) in Java that includes tutorial materials for learning the Java programming language (specifically geared towards EE applications), instructions for how to download, install, and run a Java program on a personal computer, and instructions for how to set up his Java Scientific Library on a personal computer.

OSS Management Systems

Comparison of Four OSS Configuration Management Systems

David Wheeler maintains a site titled Comments on OSS/FS Software Configuration Management Systems providing comparisons of the following four systems: CVS, Subversion, GNU Arch, and Monotone.

Evaluation of OSS for Electricity Markets

Evaluation of OSS LP Software for Electricity Spot Market Optimization

Stuart R. Thorncraft, Hugh R. Outhred, and David J. Clements, "Evaluation of Open-Source LP Optimization Codes in Solving Electricity Spot Market Optimization Problems" (pdf,84KB), 19th Mini-European Conference on Operations Research Models and Methods in the Energy Sector, Coimbra, Portugal, September 6-8, 2006.
Abstract: The authors investigate the performance of three linear programming packages --- GLPK, COIN-LP (CLP), and LPSOLVE -- for the determination of optimal locational marginal prices (LMPs) and dispatch levels for electricity spot markets.

OSS General Reference Materials

Producing OSS

Karl Fogel, "Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project (pdf,694KB), 184 pages, copyright 2005 under a CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike license.
Abstract: This book is meant for software developers and managers who are either planning to start an OSS project or who are concerned with the effective maintenance of an ongoing OSS project. Topics covered include: (1) History of OSS; (2) Getting Started (choosing a name, mission statement, license, documentation, etc.); (3) Technical Infrastructure (project needs, mailing lists, version control, bug tracker, Wikis, websites); (4) Social and Political Infrastructure; (5) Money (types of involvement, contracting, funding, marketing); (6) Communications (structure and formatting, avoiding common pitfalls, handling difficult people, handling growth, publicity); (7) Packaging, Releasing, and Daily Development (release numbering, packaging, testing and releasing, maintaining multiple release lines); (8) Managing volunteers; (9) Licenses, Copyrights, and Patents (MIT/X Window System License, GNU General Public License, BSD License, copyrighting, dual licensing, patents); (10) Useful Appendices (free version control systems, free bug trackers, copyright forms, etc.).

Hongyan Li and Leigh Tesfatsion, "Development of Open Source Software for Power Market Research: The AMES Test Bed" (pdf Preprint,628KB), Journal of Energy Markets, Vol. 2, No. 2, Summer 2009, 111-128.
Abstract: Open Source Software (OSS) expresses the idea that developers should be able to license the publication of their software in a manner permitting anyone to freely use, modify, and distribute the software. Today OSS is widely used in the software industry, such as for language development tools (e.g., NetBeans for Java), office document processors (e.g., OpenOffice), and operating systems (e.g., Linux, OpenSolaris). Yet OSS has been slow to penetrate the power industry; heavy reliance is still placed on closed-source commercial software packages. The OSS in use tends to be for specialized purposes (e.g., circuit design) rather than for the general-purpose analysis of power systems. This study discusses potential benefits and drawbacks of developing OSS for power market research, using the AMES Wholesale Power Market Test Bed for concrete illustration.

Copyright © Leigh Tesfatsion. All Rights Reserved.