Safe reinforcement learning for multi-energy management systems with known constraint functions

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Reinforcement learning (RL) is a promising optimal control technique for multi-energy management systems. It does not require a model a priori - reducing the upfront and ongoing project-specific engineering effort and is capable of learning better representations of the underlying system dynamics. However, vanilla RL does not provide constraint satisfaction guarantees — resulting in various potentially unsafe interactions within its environment. In this paper, we present two novel online model-free safe RL methods, namely SafeFallback and GiveSafe, where the safety constraint formulation is decoupled from the RL formulation. These provide hard-constraint satisfaction guarantees both during training and deployment of the (near) optimal policy. This is without the need of solving a mathematical program, resulting in less computational power requirements and more flexible constraint function formulations. In a simulated multi-energy systems case study we have shown that both methods start with a significantly higher utility compared to a vanilla RL benchmark and Optlayer benchmark (94,6% and 82,8% compared to 35,5% and 77,8%) and that the proposed SafeFallback method even can outperform the vanilla RL benchmark (102,9% to 100%). We conclude that both methods are viably safety constraint handling techniques applicable beyond RL, as demonstrated with random policies while still providing hard-constraint guarantees.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100227
JournalEnergy and AI
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported in part by ABB n.v., Belgium and Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) grant HBC.2019.2613 , Belgium.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s)

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Reinforcement Learning
  • Constraints
  • multi-energy systems
  • Energy Management Systems


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