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Energy Department Co-Hosts Workshops to Develop an Industry-Driven Vision of the Nation’s Future Electric Grid

July 11, 2014 - 2:14pm


The U.S. electric grid provides the foundation for America’s economic success. Our digital economy, our national security, and our day-to-day lives are highly dependent on reliable, safe, and affordable electricity. To take advantage of technological advances and to meet society’s changing expectations and preferences, our nation’s grid must evolve, as well.

This evolution has already begun, and over the next 20-30 years it will have significant implications for reliability, transmission and distribution operations, security, resiliency and customer choice. Many challenges will need to be addressed, including technology challenges, restructuring of the regulatory model, a re-thinking of how electricity is priced, and who can provide value added services.   To develop sustainable solutions to these issues and others, it will take all stakeholders working together.

With this in mind, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) and the GridWise Alliance recently partnered to facilitate a series of regional workshops and a National Summit entitled “Future of the Grid: Evolving to Meet America’s Needs” to create an industry-driven vision of the grid in 2030 and, more importantly, to begin forging a path to realizing that vision. Over the last 6 months, we held four regional workshops (Western, Central, Southeast, and Northeast) across the country to engage multiple stakeholders in helping to formulate the future grid’s requirements and identifying any possible regional variations.  Attended by more than 240 thought leaders from all stakeholder groups (utilities, regulators, state government officials, renewable energy providers, vendors, and third party innovators), the workshops provided the necessary platform for open and frank discussions about compelling issues within the industry and allowed participants to gain a fresh perspective on each other’s views. Discussions focused on several key elements of the evolution of the grid: (1) capabilities needed for the future grid, (2) the changing role of grid operators, (3) the new technologies and financial models required to drive investment, (4) the policy and regulatory barriers to realizing the vision, and (5) the transition necessary to achieve the future grid.

Through the regional discussions, common themes emerged, such as the following: The grid is a dynamic and complex system with many interdependencies that is growing even more complex as new technologies and players are being introduced. Investments in new systems and communications infrastructure will be needed to accommodate all types of generation and to provide more flexibility, predictability, controllability, and visibility across the system. Regulatory and business models will need to adapt to allow utilities and other parties to provide customers with the services and products they want and to encourage innovation. Summary reports for each of the regional workshops are available for downloading.

To review, synthesize, and validate the findings and themes that emerged from the regional discussions, OE and GridWise hosted a National Summit in Washington, DC, on June 26, bringing together senior electricity industry leaders from across the United States. A final report, which is expected to be released in the fall, will outline the vision, provide specific recommendations, inform larger DOE research and development efforts, and educate all stakeholders—including state and federal policy makers and regulators—on the issues that must be addressed to ensure that the future grid is affordable, reliable, and resilient to support our economic prosperity and energy security. The report will also provide valuable perspective on the industry’s future vision for the grid to DOE’s Quadrennial Energy Review

Through these efforts and other initiatives, DOE has emerged as a resource and convener for the diverse electricity industry, stakeholders, state and local governments, and other federal agencies. This role is increasingly important as the many stakeholders navigate this significant transformation. Continued public-private collaboration will be essential to overcome barriers and embrace opportunities in transforming the grid of today into the grid of tomorrow.