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Quadrennial Energy Review

Damir Novosel, Veronika Rabl, and Jeff Nelson

President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum in January 2014 directing several Federal agencies to undertake a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), the first of which focuses on the development of a comprehensive strategy for the infrastructure involved in transporting, transmitting, and delivering energy, and report back in January 2015. The US DOE, under the leadership of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Domestic Policy Council, has requested IEEE to provide insights on a specific set of priority issues. Spearheaded by the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) and IEEE-USA, a multi-disciplinary, IEEE-wide task force consisting of IEEE leaders from its membership has delivered a report to the DOE on September 8th, which is publicly available at www.ieee-pes.org/qer. The draft report was delivered within a couple months’ time, and the final report was delivered in a four months’ time, including a public review process by the IEEE membership and other industry organizations. The report tapped on IEEE volunteers to provide unbiased and independent response benefiting from synergies between private and public sectors (utilities, vendors, academia, national labs, regulatory organizations, and other industry participants).

The National Academy of Engineering considers electrification as the first of twenty engineering achievements that have had the greatest impact on quality of life in the 20th century. Presidential Policy Directive 21 identifies the Energy Sector as uniquely critical because it provides an “enabling function” across all critical infrastructure sectors.   Modern society has reached a point where virtually every crucial economic and social function depends on the secure, reliable operation of the power and energy infrastructures. These infrastructures provide huge societal benefits but also face big challenges. International energy industry has been experiencing significant changes caused by new technology trends, environmental concerns, new weather patterns, changing consumer needs, and regulatory requirements. The electrical power and energy sector will continue evolving as consumer expectations and options will change, technology breakthroughs will happen, and energy sources and their usage will be transformed. Use of electricity is expected to grow even with improvements in energy efficiency as it is expected that electrical energy will replace other forms of energy (e.g. transportation).

The past few years have brought about great strides in advancing knowledge on all fronts of interest to DOE. Indeed, the questions raised by DOE span some of the major issues facing the electric power sector world-wide. This pace of progress is expected to continue and the report should therefore be viewed as a snapshot reflecting the knowledge available today. IEEE QER team kept the responses within the scope of the questions. There are many other grid-related issues that are not addressed in this document.

Responses discussed in this report are highlighted below.

Effects of renewable intermittency on the electric power grid and the potential role of storage in addressing these effects

  • The bulk power grid can accommodate a large amount of intermittent generation, although it would require some changes in planning and operating procedures.
  • Grid-level energy storage is a beneficial resource but it is a grid resource and its absence is neither a barrier to nor is its availability per se an enabler for penetration of renewable energy. Solutions involving curtailment or flexible generation are currently less expensive than energy storage.
  • The distribution system issues are more complex — intermittent renewable generation creates many new challenges, not experienced with conventional distributed generation.
  • Alternative engineering designs, technology solutions, and new and updated planning and operations practices are needed for the distribution system of the future, which treats renewable or other distributed generation as an intrinsic component and shifts the focus from mitigating impacts or restricting proliferation to fully exploiting their potential benefits.

Utility and other energy company business case issues related to microgrids and distributed generation (DG), including rooftop photovoltaics

  • Microgrids and distributed resources should be viewed as integral elements of the overall electrical grid. Traditional grids and microgrids should be purposefully integrated into hybrid grids to fulfill all the consumer needs, with transmission as an enabler to support integration of renewable resources.
  • The microgrid business case depends on benefits achieved for the consumer and the provider. Key aspects include costs, efficiency, reliability, safety, and resiliency — all supported by and coordinated with the balance of the grid in a manner that enables the utility or energy company to defer more expensive investment or to manage its grid in a less costly manner.
  • Policy should support value creation, with results-based rewards, and not unduly favor either incumbent utilities or non-utility microgrid sponsors.

The technical implications for the grid (bulk and local distribution) of electric vehicle (EV) integration – and the timing you see as necessary to avoid having the grid status slow down any potential progress

  • The generation and transmission systems can handle millions of plug-in electric vehicles without any need for additional capacity. Although not a realistic expectation, even electrification of the entire passenger fleet would only add about 10% to U.S. electricity requirements.
  • There is a good understanding of technical issues that may arise on the distribution system. Generally, the issues relate to potential overloads of distribution transformers and circuits, changes in equipment cooling patterns, or inability to accommodate high-power charging in older neighborhoods with legacy distribution infrastructure.
  • The recommendations include distribution system upgrades, development of PEV charging infrastructure, battery research, and development of modeling and control tools.

The implications and importance of aging infrastructure and the options for addressing these challenges, including asset management

  • Aging infrastructure should not be treated as an isolated concern; rather it should be viewed in the context of holistic asset management.
  • The entire equipment fleet must be managed to achieve system reliability and meet customer service needs through effective planning and operations.
  • Holistic approach in support of business goals includes management of Aging Infrastructure (including condition monitoring and assessment tools), Grid Hardening (weather related response, physical vulnerability and cyber security), and System Capabilities (including reliability improvements).
  • Urgently address managing new Smart Grid assets such as advanced metering infrastructure and intelligent electronic devices.
  • Investigate practical measures to shorten times to replace and commission equipment that failed due to extreme events, physical attacks, or other reasons.
  • Better coordination of electricity and gas markets, including developing operational tools to more accurately forecast the availability of natural gas supply for generators and improve unit commitment decisions.

Recommendations for metrics for addressing Smart Grid issues, especially to help policy makers determine the importance and necessity of protocols

  • A Smart Grid metric and any figure of merit depend on the definition of the Smart Grid, particularly expectations as to what will be facilitated by the Smart Grid, and reflect the perspective and the framework of the stakeholder.
  • Two sets of metrics are recommended: one driven by electricity users’ needs and preferences and another, driven by national, regional, and state priorities.
  • Timely development of standards and protocols is key to implementation of Smart Systems. Selected Smart Grid standard development must be put on a “fast-track”.

Skilled workforce issues

  • Workforce implications and educational or training needs should be considered as integral factors of research and policy initiatives.
  • A range of partnerships (examples included in the report) should be formed to develop new curricula and enhance secondary and post-secondary energy sector workforce training programs, apprenticeships, and use of best practices. This includes participation of individuals in standards development, professional activities and conferences, and continuous education.

Observations common to many of the topics addressed:

  • Institutional challenges can be serious barriers to engineering solutions.
  • More emphasis on accelerated development of industry consensus standards.

This document has been extensively reviewed by the IEEE membership, IEEE PES Technical Committees, representatives from various industry organizations (including APPA, EEI, UWIG), NERC, utilities, RTOs, academia, and private companies. The IEEE team has incorporated those extremely valuable comments to the best of its abilities while assuring document consistency. This report is also accompanied by set of slides for each section to help illustrate the findings and provide information in a graphical form.

In summary, the electrical power and energy industry is in a crucial transition phase as initiatives we take today will affect how the grid is operated for years to come. The IEEE PES is very well positioned to provide unbiased and independent technical leadership to electrical power and energy industry worldwide including supporting government agencies in policy development and implementation. The IEEE volunteers and staff possess unparalleled, integrated knowledge of technical, economic, environmental, security, and safety aspects to significantly help policymakers with an all-inclusive and rigorous approach. IEEE plans to continue supporting DOE and other international government agencies on important initiatives such as the QER.