EDITOR’S NOTE: The Department of Energy is embarking on a major new initiative to inform and support modernization of the electric grid to make it a multi-directional “internet of electricity.” That would enable the grid to carry increasing volumes of renewable power and distributed generation while achieving higher levels of security and resilience. Two of the principal architects of that DOE effort recently responded to questions from The Energy Times.
This is the last of a two-part series. Last week: DOE’s Grid Vision
Energy Times: Will the grid modernization allow for fewer and less lengthy power outages?
Imhoff and Hannegan: From a cybersecurity perspective, we will build off of The Recovery Act-funded progress to improve utility practices that provide a greater degree of protection for their digital controls and communications systems. Also, new operational tools and grid architectures will enable a more real-time, predictive approach to grid operations. This improved situational awareness will decrease the risk of the widescale blackouts, improve response to local outages, and improve the use of energy storage and microgrids to help reduce the scale and duration of outages at the local level
Energy Times: How will it allow for a more secure grid – addressing both physical and cyber-security concerns?
Imhoff and Hannegan: A central element of the initiative is the development of a new architecture that will be required to accommodate the many changes and new roles required of our grid over the next several decades. This architecture will be critical to accommodate the onslaught of new energy devices as consumers become more connected to the grid. The associated new control approaches will implicitly address resilience and cyber security for all hazards. In addition, improved system visibility and real-time tools will improve system protection, response and outage recovery.
Energy Times: How will it allow for increased deployment of renewables?
Imhoff and Hannegan: New architectures for a modern grid will implicitly account for the need to integrate high levels of renewables in both the transmission and distribution systems. Related control theory development will provide new approaches to better manage variable generation while still ensuring reliable and stable grid operations. Also, the initiative will develop an entirely new generation of planning tools that include the capacity to manage uncertainty as we onboard more variable generation. New planning tools will integrate across transmission and distribution systems to enable better overall control of renewables. Also envisioned is a platform that will link and coordinate transmission and distribution operational tools (EMS and DMS) used to manage variable generation. Lastly, the initiative will steward testing, system integration and regional demonstrations of high-penetrations of renewables to help local and regional utilities gain broader experience.
Energy Times: What role will the various DOE national labs play in devising and implementing the new vision of the grid?
Imhoff and Hannegan: The consortium consists of 13 national labs with a total of approximately 65 lab staff supporting the six tech teams. In addition to defining the multiyear program plan, the labs are working closely with DOE program offices to link to and leverage existing programs. The labs also will play a key role in engaging their respective regional stakeholders to aid in implementing the new concepts. Labs will provide institutional support to states, local communities, tribes and others to develop new regulations needed to unleash the potential of the modern grid. The labs will also engage in the development and implementation of regional and local demonstrations, co-funded by industry, to accelerate the rate of impact of the new innovations emerging from the DOE Grid Modernization efforts. Close lab-to-lab coordination ensures that we best leverage our respective intellectual and scientific assets – from fundamental science to applied materials – to deliver substantial benefit to grid modernization efforts.
Carl Imhoff and Bryan Hannegan, are the chair and vice chair of the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium. Imhoff is Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory manager of electricity market sector. Hannegan is National Renewable Energy Laboratory associate director of energy systems integration.