Innovations in Electrification


Electrification 2020 Track G

Fortnightly Magazine - February 10 2020

Everyone is interested in innovation and wants to find the newest and brightest solutions first. There will be a track G of five sessions at Electrification 2020 on innovation in electrification. The innovators will be on the Expo Floor in the Startup Showcase on Wednesday evening, where you can watch them pitch their solutions. Co-hosted by EPRI and Duke Energy, it will be an inspiring and fun evening.

PUF: What is your role at EPRI?

Erik Steeb: I lead the Incubatenergy Network, which brings together energy-related start-up company incubators and accelerators mostly across the U.S. and with growing international presence. Incubators and accelerators help early-stage companies focused on decarbonization, electrification, and other clean technologies by assisting with building their businesses, securing investments and customers, and helping them scale.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy was funding a number of these organizations to help commercialize clean energy technologies. The DOE also wanted those organizations sharing commercialization and funding best practices, so they contracted with EPRI and NREL to build and lead the Incubatenergy Network.

I was at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator as chief programs officer at the time. We were one of the Department of Energy grantees and EPRI brought us together with our sister incubators and accelerators back in the day, so I have been a member of that Incubatenergy Network from the start. 

Beth Hartman in EPRI's Technology Innovation group was running that for many years. I got to know EPRI and many of my peers from incubators around the country through Incubatenergy. I joined EPRI when Beth left and am focused on programs to better connect EPRI members to the innovations coming out of the startups in that network. 

PUF: Talk a little about the upcoming conference and track G on innovation. There's also going to be something with Incubatenergy. Will there be pitches or sessions? How's that going to work?

Erik Steeb: One of the things we built on top of the Incubatenergy Network was Incubatenergy Labs, a rapid test and demonstration capability to connect startup innovations in particular areas in which our utility members have expressed interest.

We run a process to identify innovation priorities of the utilities, discover startups with solutions matching those needs, and work with a number of them on rapid demonstration of their technologies. American Electric Power and EPRI built this process in 2019 with seven other utilities. 

We're in our second cycle now with a dozen utilities involved and issued an open call to startups to apply in January. This month, February 2020, we'll narrow the field of about a hundred and fifty applicants down to the fifteen to twenty that we want to see face-to-face at Electrification 2020.

We'll hold a Pitch Day for those startups on the Tuesday before Electrification 2020 begins, where we'll hear the companies' pitch and we'll work with them on what a rapid demonstration of their solution might include. 

Anyone attending Electrification 2020 will get to see those companies. They'll be on the Expo floor in the Startup Showcase, and on Wednesday evening, April 8, EPRI and Duke Energy are co-hosting an innovation reception at the venue where these startups will do fast pitches open to all Electrification attendees.

PUF: It's exciting to see these geniuses with their great ideas.

Erik Steeb: Yes, and there's a lot to live up to. At Electrification 2018, more than five hundred attendees attended the startup pitches.

We're looking forward to carrying forward a select number of Pitch Day participants directly into demonstration projects with utilities.

After Pitch Day, we'll spend four weeks scoping what a demonstration project would look like between one of the utilities in the group and each startup. For those we're most interested in, we'll spend twelve weeks executing that demonstration. These rapid demonstrations give us a quick exposure to the technology and better understand how it will integrate in our operating environments and customer offerings.

PUF: What about these track sessions at the conference? What's their purpose?

Report - Economic Impact of Covid 19 on Utilities

Erik Steeb: Track G is the innovation track. It's focused on new innovations in the industry and is aligned around our efforts to identify effective pathways to drive decarbonization through electrification and by utilizing low-carbon fuels for hard-to-electrify sectors of the market.

That innovation track is broken up into five sessions. The first is, Radical Challenges: Technology Approaches for Deep Decarbonization. We'll cover grid-related innovations such as carbon capture and sequestration or CCS, short-duration and seasonal storage solutions that will enable a high penetration of renewables, and integration and management of distributed energy resources.

We'll also cover the electrification and decarbonization of other sectors, such as buildings and transportation. Hot topics in those areas include heating solutions for winter peaking regions and how we address deep decarbonization in long-haul freight transportation.

The second session is called Investing in and Accelerating Electric Technologies. We're looking at how we enable the development, testing, and scaling of innovations in our markets. Investing through to scale includes venture - think Breakthrough Energy Ventures or Energy Impact Partners, industry platforms that provide access to test beds - think CalTestBed, Pecan Street, and the like, and there's a financing component that helps facilitate rapid scale.

The third session is called Hydrogen on the Horizon. To get to that hydrogen economy, we need solutions for low-carbon hydrogen production, efficient storage and transportation - either hydrogen or an intermediate carrier - and we need efficient, cost-effective consumers of that hydrogen, such as fuel cells to create electricity, or combustion engines for heating, industrial processes, and long-haul transportation. 

The fourth session is the Future of Cost-Effective, Low-Carbon Resources. We're driving a lot of electrification-oriented things, but there are areas of the market that are difficult to electrify. For those, we have a vision of a hydrogen economy but getting there will require substantial investment. In the interim, we need to implement low-carbon drop-in fuels that can leverage existing systems and infrastructure. We'll look at things like synthetic hydrocarbons, renewable methane, CCS integration into existing, hydrocarbon-based fuels, and more.

Then the final session is Innovative Customer Programs. What creative programs are in play that will help drive adoption of these innovations in residential, commercial, and industrial markets?

PUF: Who should go to these sessions, and to the pitch sessions too?

Erik Steeb: In this track, we're looking at these new solutions and how they will ultimately integrate into our day-to-day operations. Anybody dealing with the integration of new innovations into their operations and customer programs should attend. 

Those focused on long-term business planning and how and when these innovations will enter also would benefit. These same people would likely benefit from engaging the companies in our Startup Showcase for the Incubatenergy Labs program.

PUF: What are you hoping to see at the conference?

Erik Steeb: I've grown up in high tech and then the tech startup world. The utility sector has been somewhat new for me over the last year. I've been working to understand the scale, the specific business drivers, business interests from the perspective of highly regulated business and complex environments that have tremendous responsibilities around reliability, safety, and cost.

Market forces are pushing us to innovate in many areas. So how do we marry those two aspects of innovating rapidly while continuing to deliver the reliability, safety, and resilience that customers expect? It's understanding those perspectives from utilities and regulators that are attending Electrification 2020. It will be a great venue to learn those things.

Track G: Innovations in Electrification

Session G1: Radical Challenges: Technology Approaches for Deep Decarbonization

Moving beyond e-mobility and heating technologies that will account for the bulk of near-term electrification, what will be the next industry or sector to unlock disruptive change through innovation in electric technologies?

Session G2: Investing in and Accelerating Electric Technologies

Understanding the economics of electrification is critical to achieving the rapid, affordable deployment of electric technologies throughout society.

Session G3: Hydrogen on the Horizon

Hydrogen and synthetic fuels could play a necessary role in decarbonizing many industries, transportation, and even buildings. What are the technical, economic and policy advances required to enable the hydrogen and synthetic fuel pathways for decarbonized electricity?

Session G4: The Future of Cost-Effective Low Carbon Resources

Enormous projected surpluses of low cost, renewable or other low-carbon electricity have laid the ground work for serious consideration of low-carbon resources — ammonia, synthetic and electro-fuels that can address gaps in our national and global decarbonization portfolios. How close are these resources to the scale and cost-effectiveness required to contribute to mid- and long-term carbon targets?

Report - Economic Impact of Covid 19 on Utilities

Session G5: Innovative Customer Programs

What is the role of innovation in accelerating adoption? Can new technologies and business models overcome customer reticence or uncertainty and lead to rapid changes in adoption of new technologies. Bring your ideas in a discuss with our panel of thought leaders.


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