In the rapidly evolving landscape of energy consumption, electricity has become the driving force behind not only our homes and communities, but also our vehicles, economy, and national security. The foundation for America’s electric grid is the brains and backbone of a tremendous resource: the people who contribute to its resiliency and drive the innovation that supports it. An important cohort of those people work in the Office of Electricity’s (OE) Grid Controls and Communications Division, the group that I have had the privilege to oversee. This group works in partnership with the two other divisions under OE’s umbrella—Grid Systems and Components and Energy Storage—to lead electricity research and development for the Department of Energy.
OE’s Grid Controls and Communications Division’s mission is to create operational tools that keep the lights on for the nation while planning for the grid of the future. We focus on how the electric grid can continue to operate reliably, affordably, and securely. The division combines the latest advances in mathematics, modeling capabilities, and sensors to harness the power of data and drive decision making to support the reliable operations and planning of electrical services.
The complexity of keeping the lights on in the households of all Americans requires a tremendous amount of thought and innovation. Many people envision the electric grid as just a network of wires, but it’s cutting-edge science—like computation, materials, and data analytics— that will support OE’s goal to build a twenty-first century grid. We continue to raise awareness of the science behind the scenes and within the grid, like the progress of the North American Energy Resilience Model (NAERM), which is developing a comprehensive resilience modeling system for energy sector infrastructure. NAERM will predict the impact of threats, evaluate and identify effective mitigation strategies, and support resilience planning, benefiting the U.S. by advancing energy and economic security.
The synergistic work of the OE divisions forms the foundation of the electrical infrastructure in our country. The Grid Systems and Components Division develops the structure for the grid. Their focus is the hardware that carries electricity from one point to another and the assets that support reliability and getting electricity to where it is needed in the quantities and characteristics that are desired. The Grid Controls and Communications Division serves as the conductor, helping to ensure that every component is optimized to contribute effectively. To be efficient, components must interoperate and interact to amplify their value across the system.
Our third division, Energy Storage, provides another critical interconnected role at OE. The concept of energy storage is more than just a battery; it embodies an enhanced comprehension of energy consumption and system flexibility. As we approach World Energy Storage Day on September 22, we want to highlight the connections between the Grid Controls and Communications and Energy Storage Divisions.
The Grid Controls and Communications Division analyzes the evolving electrical system and its trends and dynamics over time. We develop and utilize models to determine where energy storage technology could be deployed in the system to create the greatest benefit. This knowledge is pivotal to support reliability and resilience and informs the ongoing advances in energy storage. By harnessing these insights, we can refine device creation, shape functional requirements, and maximize the energy storage contribution to the evolving system. This proactive approach ensures that energy storage not only adapts to the present, but also evolves with the emerging energy landscape.
Access to reliable, resilient, and affordable electricity is vital to all Americans, and preserving this access is becoming increasingly complex and challenging. The insights and innovation of people that are topnotch in their fields—like those in our three OE divisions, in partnership with line workers, technicians, engineers and others designing, building, and operating the grid infrastructure—will continue to provide the electrical service we have become accustomed to, and that continues to drive our economy now and in the future.