Modernizing Electricity Systems

Technology-enabled two-way flows of electricity can create significant value and options for power consumers, but at the same time they add vulnerabilities to the system. To achieve three national goals — environmental responsibility, economic competitiveness and national security — changes in utility business models, electricity markets, laws, regulations and international agreements are needed to maximize the value of new technologies, ensure universal service, and increase the reliability and security of the grid.


A clean electricity system reduces air and water pollution, lowers GHG emissions, minimizes waste and limits the impact to the ecosystem in areas such as water and land use. Supporting infrastructure improvements, including transmission and distribution systems, will ensure more efficient and optimized electricity services to enhance competitiveness. All U.S. lifeline networks including the communications and financial sectors, industry, energy production, transmission and distribution, the economy and our global defense networks rely on electricity; protecting the electric grid from cyber and physical attacks, EMPs and GMDs is an essential component of national security. Also, promoting further North American grid integration will enhance system reliability and economic opportunity. Finally, decarbonizing the electricity system is a necessary but not sufficient component of a successful climate strategy.

EFI principals were central to developing the January 2017 Administration Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) 1.2, which analyzed the electricity system from generation to end use. QER 1.1 proved to be very influential in establishing Federal policy and infrastructure modernization funding; similar opportunities are found in the implementation of QER 1.2’s recommendations on electricity system modernization, security, environmental protection and consumer choices.

Initial Analytical Projects for Modernizing Electricity Systems

EFI will write select white papers and meet with stakeholders to discuss and develop projects from several priority options:

✓ EFI will develop improved understanding of the electricity system and its dynamics through enhancements in data, modeling and analysis. 

 EFI will develop strategies to implement QER 1.2 and to assist other countries in developing an analogous integrated energy policy process for a clean and secure energy future.

✓ EFI will analyze and develop technology deployment and policy implementation strategies to address the key issues for modernizing the grid, including:  

  • The ongoing need for significant baseload power generation for the next several decades. The future contribution from nuclear power and from coal and natural gas carbon capture, utilization and storage will be particularly challenging, although small modular reactors may offer a promising path forward.
  • Requirements for system flexibility and automation to integrate increases in variable renewables and distributed energy resources.
  • Requirements for visibility of information, communications and data — and the conversion of associated data into useful information — that can optimize grid operations, enhance security and serve as an engine for clean energy technologies and value creation, both for the electricity sector and the broader economy.
  • The need to decarbonize the electricity sector to address the imperatives of climate change. An all-of-the-above climate perspective is essential. Clean generation sources will be needed for this pathway, including renewables, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, biofuels and coal and natural gas with carbon capture, utilization and sequestration.
  • The adequacy of existing regulatory regimes for advancing essential grid modernization goals and objectives.
  • Differentiated utility business model modernization in industrialized countries (generally with flat or declining demand projections) and developing markets (generally with expanding demand projections).