Mission Innovation: Clean Energy R&D

EFI will develop frameworks to support, enable and facilitate investments; policy and regulation harmonization; and planning for electricity systems. We will use our team of experts to:

  • Analyze complex electricity systems to provide decision-makers with unbiased and informed strategies to optimize electricity system operations, value, security and environmental performance.
     
  • Advance synergistic electricity system technology, policies and regulation.
     
  • Mobilize industry, labor, policy-makers, philanthropists and NGOs to forge clean electricity system solutions.
 

The Issues

 

 

The nation’s electricity sector is experiencing profound changes, driven in large part by technology advances.  New technologies have enabled two-way power flows, dramatic increases in variable power generation, an array of distributed energy resources – rooftop solar, distributed storage, demand response options – that create enormous value for our economy at the same time they challenge business models, our legal and regulatory structures, grid operations, and system security.

According to the Department of Energy’s 2017 Quadrennial Energy Review, “The electricity system supports the increased electrification of all sectors of the U.S. economy. At the same time, almost every economic sector now relies, in varying degrees, on highly interconnected, data-driven, and electricity-dependent systems to manage operations and provide services. The evolving electricity-information nexus supports a wide range of products and services and has the potential for even greater value creation. It supports new information-driven enterprises, helps lower initial and ongoing costs, improves control of risks, saves time and effort, enhances productivity, and can create new market categories.”

There are several key trends in the electricity sector that require analysis, new technologies and new policy solutions:

  • Deep decarbonization of the electricity sector is necessary for addressing the imperatives of climate change. Clean generation sources will be needed for this pathway, including renewables, nuclear, hydro and coal and natural gas with carbon capture, utilization and sequestration.
  • The increasing penetration of zero-carbon variable generation resources and deployment of clean distributed energy resources are critical components of a decarbonization strategy. 

  • There will be a need for significant baseload power generation for the next several decades.  
     
  • The integration of variable renewables and distributed energy resources increases the need for system flexibility and automation as the grid transitions from controllable generation and variable load to more variable generation and the need and potential for controllable load. 
     
  • Visibility is a necessary condition for managing these rapidly changing and complex grid conditions.  Information, communications and automation – essential for managing a modernized grid and for appropriately valuing clean technology, efficiency and demand response – require visibility. This visibility — and the conversion of associated data into useful information — can serve as an engine for clean energy technologies and value creation, both for the electricity sector and the broader economy.  
     
  • Innovation in generation, distribution efficiency and demand response technologies is essential to a low carbon future. Innovation combined with supportive policies can provide the signal needed to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies, providing a policy pull to complement technology push.  
     
  • Technology-enabled two-way flows of electricity, distributed resources and the introduction of billions of grid-connected devices enable significant value creation but also introduce vulnerabilities in the electricity system that do not respect current legal and regulatory structures.  

 
 
 

Addressing this range of technology-enabled changes and maximizing their value for the economy will require analytically-informed policy development and the integration of a range of policies to maximize national goals of security, environmental responsibility and economic competitiveness. Policy decisions made in this environment of profound change will establish the trajectory of the U.S. electricity system — and all that it enables — for decades or longer. “Getting it right” is essential for aligning our national goals and ensuring that these goals work in concert and provide maximum value to consumers, industry and the national defense.

Informing Options, Advancing Solutions: The 21st Century Electricity System Modernization Project will analyze options for creating value from new distribution system products for consumers and utilities; legal and regulatory harmonization to reflect new technologies and capabilities of the modern electric grid; integrating technologies and policies to decarbonize the electricity sector; and ensuring safe, secure, reliable electricity systems in a time of rapid changes, new services, and challenges to existing utility business models. The Project will also analyze regional electricity systems, assess the need and options for new transmission, and develop policy options for optimizing grid operations.