Office of Electricity (OE) Accomplishments in 2019 and 2018

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The Office of Electricity (OE) leads the Department’s efforts to ensure the nation’s critical energy infrastructure is secure and able to recover rapidly from disruptions.  Below are some of OE’s recent accomplishments.  Information about earlier accomplishments is available HERE.  To learn more about how OE is harnessing innovation for a stronger, more reliable North American energy system and a path forward to energy independence, visit the OE website’s blog and News section.

2019 Accomplishments

  • Innovative R&D in Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning:  OE announced awards of nearly $7 million to improve existing knowledge and discover new insights and tools for better grid operation and management.  These projects are expected to inform and shape the future development and application of faster grid analytics and modeling, better grid asset management, and sub-second automatic control actions that will help system operators avoid grid outages, improve operations, and reduce costs.

  • Electricity Industry Technology and Practices Innovation Challenge:  OE launched this contest to seek innovative ideas on how existing procedures and practices can be modified or replaced to improve grid operations.  Innovators are encouraged to submit their ideas for developing technologies and solutions that can address new and evolving vulnerabilities, counter emerging threats, and mitigate cross-sector dependencies.  A total of up to $1 million of prize money will be awarded to up to 25 selectees. 

  • Expansion of the RAPID Toolkit:  The Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop (RAPID) Toolkit, which gives agencies, developers, and industry stakeholders an easy-to-use source of online information about federal and state regulatory processes and requirements for bulk transmission projects, was expanded to cover all 50 states.  This online tool helps states and the energy industry modernize the nation’s electric grid by easing access to critical information needed in planning new transmission infrastructure projects. 

  • Conference on Security Investments for Energy Infrastructure:  DOE and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) co-hosted a technical conference in March on Security Investments for Energy Infrastructure to discuss security practices to protect energy infrastructure.  The purpose of the conference was to discuss current cyber and physical security practices used to protect energy infrastructure and explore how federal and state authorities can provide incentives and cost recovery for security investments in energy infrastructure, particularly the electric and natural gas sectors.

  • Fundamentals of Distribution System Operations and Emerging Practices in Integrated Planning Workshop:  OE hosted a two-day workshop in March for officials representing the energy offices and public utility commissions of the Mid-Atlantic States and the District of Columbia on the fundamentals of distribution system operations and emerging practices in integrated planning.  The workshop was the fifth in a series which has provided distribution system training to officials from over 40 states.  The training is intended to provide fundamental technical information to state officials who are responsible for providing guidance to utilities, as well as oversight, on distribution system plans that often need to address advancements in technology and policy.

2018 Accomplishments

  • Two R&D 100 Awards:  Two projects supported by OE received prestigious R&D 100 awards.  The Dynamic Contingency Analysis Tool (DCAT) developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identifies weaknesses, determines impacts that would result from a cascading power outage, and notifies the power operator of actions needed to stop an outage before it occurs.  The Mobile Universal Grid Analyzer (m-UGA), co-developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee, allows grid operators and utilities to assess the health of the grid in real time on their mobile devices.  

  • Grid-Scale Energy Storage Cost Reductions: A reduced cost of grid-scale (over 1 megawatt MW) energy storage technologies has been demonstrated at $275 per kilowatt hour for a 4-hour system based on a new aqueous soluble organic electrolyte.  Energy storage is emerging as an integral component to the grid modernization strategy to provide a diverse range of services including energy management, backup power, load leveling, frequency regulation, voltage support, and grid stabilization.

  • Proposed Critical Electric Infrastructure Information (CEII) Rule:  New administrative procedures in the CEII Rule proposed by OE would allow DOE to designate submitted electric infrastructure information as critical, safeguarding the security of this information from bad actors.  Comments received are available for public inspection on the website.  All comments received by December 28, 2018, and all other relevant information will be considered by DOE before final action is taken on this proposed regulation.

  • Investment in Grid Resilience:  OE announced awards of up to $7.5 million to support R&D of the next generation of large power transformers that can be shared and replaced more easily in the event of a failure, are smarter with embedded sensors and analytics, and are more secure to cyber-physical threats.  Transformers are fundamental to the grid, as all grid-sourced electricity flows through these devices.  

  • New Standard for Testing of Microgrid Controllers:  A new standard approved by the IEEE Standards Association Board tests core functions of microgrid controllers to ensure interoperability of different microgrid controllers used to operate microgrid energy management systems.  The basis of the new standard was the Generic Microgrid Controller (GMC), developed by the Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) at the University of California, Irvine. This project was funded by OE’s Advanced Grid R&D Division through its “Microgrid Research, Development, and System Design” Funding Opportunity Announcement.

  • International Electricity Regulation:  OE issued a Presidential Permit for the Nogales Interconnection Project, authorizing the international border crossing of a new, approximately five-mile alternating current (AC) transmission line that would cross the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Santa Cruz County, Arizona and be capable of delivering up to 300 MW of power to Mexico.

  • Electricity Transmission Planning:  OE released its annual U.S. Transmission Data Review, a compilation of transmission-related data focused on transmission infrastructure, reliability, use, constraints, planning, and economic congestion.  OE also hosted a public workshop on electric transmission development and siting issues to solicit input regarding its 2019 congestion study and foster dialogue on key issues affecting today’s electric transmission systems.

  • Helping Utilities Measure the Cost and Impact of Power Outages:  Through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), OE released an updated Estimating Power System Interruption Costs: A Guidebook for Electric Utilities and the Interruption Cost Estimate Calculator 2.0.  The guidebook provides standard procedures for measuring electric utility customer interruption costs.  The calculator is an online tool that helps electric reliability planners at utilities, government organizations, and other entities estimate interruption costs and benefits associated with reliability improvements.

  • Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Women in Clean Energy Symposium:  OE helped plan and participated in the 2018 C3E Symposium.  Jointly administered by DOE, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative, Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, and the Texas A&M University Energy Institute, C3E contributes to closing the gender gap and increasing the participation, leadership, and success of women and minorities in the clean energy sector.

  • Grid Modernization Practicums with the New England Commissions:  OE organized two multi-day workshops with the public utility commissions representing New England states.  The purpose of the workshops, which included additional support through several webinars, was to help the commissions address key issues related to their grid modernization strategies and implementation plans.  Materials developed by OE related to grid modernization strategy development are now being incorporated by several states (e.g., Ohio’s Ohio PowerFoward Initiative) and several utilities. 

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