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Grid 2050

Shaping system transformation.

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2011

investment horizons that are necessary for the U.S. to have a competitive, digital economy in 2050 and 2100?

• How can the nation best achieve public objectives of clean energy and energy security in ways that are technology neutral and environmentally certain?

• How do we ensure inherently secure and resilient power systems as they become increasingly digital?

• What levels of transportation electrification are required to meet national objectives for reduced oil imports and energy security, and what power system adjustments are needed to accommodate these goals?

• What ratios of baseload, intermittent and distributed local generation are required to ensure adequate reliability, resilience, security and asset utilization for the system we want in 2050? How do those ratios change under different paradigms for control or national emissions policy?

The following next steps represent suggested efforts to raise the strategic guidance of our investment and energies currently directed towards the grid—hopefully helping better guide long-term success in choosing the grid that we want for our future. This is by no means an exhaustive or complete grid transformation agenda, but reflects important opportunities to substantially augment the current good works underway.

1) Establish a systematic, national review of existing methods and constructs involved in reliability management to identify innovations that reflect emerging technical capabilities and new energy policy aspirations. Each of the four North American interconnections are comprised of balancing areas and control areas with long-established approaches for cooperatively assuring grid reliability. With the advent of significant intermittent renewables transforming the need for balancing services comes the promise of innovations in how balancing areas interact and cooperate, which will help utilities integrate the growing share of renewable power. Various studies are underway across the country. A coordinated national approach would help to identify optimal innovations that support renewables but retain reliability and security.

2) Examine how best to provide ancillary services in a future where smart grid technologies enable wide system transparency, where state RPS initiatives drive significant increases in intermittent, renewable generation, and where consumers have real-time observability of energy use and options. We need regulatory innovation that provides a level playing field for all technology options for ancillary services and unleashes the innovation that’s possible in our current and emerging technology assets.

3) Innovate the delivery of energy services across wider regional areas as monitoring and communications technologies improve and state RPSs call for increased renewable generation that is far removed from load centers. New information tools enable new concepts for inter-regional cooperation that will improve asset utilization and lower balancing costs.

4) Develop interconnection-scale operational and dynamics models for the Eastern Interconnection (EI), spanning the current five reliability councils, to boost the coordinated utilization of emerging smart grid infrastructure across the EI. Such tools exist in the other three North American interconnections (WECC (western U.S.), ERCOT (Texas) and Quebec) primarily because they are served by a single reliability council. Having such models would significantly accelerate the ability of EI utilities to validate new smart grid tools and concepts that would support situational awareness, enhanced voltage and frequency management, enhanced