Unpacking The US Grid Modernization Funding

The US Department of Energy has awarded up to US$220 million for 88 grid modernization projects.
Published: Fri 29 Jan 2016

A key challenge facing the industry is how to transition to a modern grid that meets the demands of the evolving electric sector. Taking a lead in addressing this challenge the US Department of Energy has set out a comprehensive plan of action for the next decade of areas that need addressing along with some regional demonstration projects. [Engerati-Modernizing The Power Grid]

To get the ball rolling for this Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP), the DOE also announced the award of US$220 million over three years to 88 projects under the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium. These provide for “critical research and development in advanced storage systems, clean energy integration, standards and test procedures, and a number of other key grid modernization areas.”

The Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium

The Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium was formed in November 2014 as a partnership between DOE headquarters and the 14 national laboratories to bring together leading experts and resources to collaborate on grid modernization.

For this first round of projects the Consortium will bring together with the national laboratories as the project leaders more than 100 partners, including utilities and power producers, reliability organizations, technology developers and vendors, universities and research institutes, federal agencies, state agencies and public utility commissions, industry and professional associations, policy and regulatory associations and standards organizations and testing companies.

Foundational grid modernization projects

How are the funding and projects broken down?

30 projects are named as ‘Foundational selections’, with six of these as ‘Core activities’. These will:

• Develop an integrated suite of grid modernization metrics

• Build a new architecture for grid modernization

• Provide a strategic vision with measurement tools for interoperability

• Establish a Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium testing network

• Develop a grid services and technologies valuation framework

• Identify the measurement and data management requirements to enable full grid visibility.

11 projects, mainly focused on modelling and development, are aimed to build regional partnerships. 13 projects are named as ‘Cross cutting activities’ and encompass topics including standards, testing, security, regulation and sensor development that are applicable across multiple technologies.

Programme and topic specific projects

The balance of the projects are programme and topic specific.

The programme specific projects focus on building energy management (6 projects), fuel cell technologies (2), solar energy (16), vehicle technologies (4) and wind and water power (7).

The topic specific projects focus on advanced grid modelling (4 projects), advanced distribution management systems (3), energy systems risk and predictive capabilities (3), energy storage (2), smart grid (2), transmission reliability (4), transformer resilience and advanced components (3) and cybersecurity (2).

Funding breakdown

It is also instructive to look at the funding allocations, which are broadly in line with the project numbers in the various categories. The foundational projects get a total of almost US$75 million, of which the core projects get US$11.8 million. The programme specific projects get US$94 million and the topic specific projects get US$56 million.

The largest single project award is US$13.5 million for the development of an open-source platform to support advanced distribution management applications, indicating its importance for the future grid. Other major awards, US$6 million or more, are for the development of test procedures for distributed resources, low cost advanced sensors and new control solutions.

Commenting on the funding awards, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said: “This public-private partnership between our National Laboratories, industry, academia, and state and local government agencies will help us further strengthen our ongoing efforts to improve our electrical infrastructure so that it is prepared to respond to the nation’s energy needs for decades to come.”

More grid modernization funding to come

The MYPP is an outcome of the Quadrennial Energy Review, which was released last year identifying the need for US$3.5 billion for modernization of the US grid over the coming decade.

Since the announcement of the first round of MYPP funding, a further US$11 million has been announced through ARPA-E for seven projects focused on new data models and repositories and US$18 million has been announced under the SunShot initiative for six projects focussed on the development of solar storage solutions.

The US has been, and continues to be the global leader in grid modernization. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 more than US$4.5 billion was invested in the grid, including US$3.3 billion in smart grid technology deployment and US$685 million in smart grid regional and energy storage demonstration projects.

The 14 national labs in the US are spread across the country and include Argonne and New Brunswick in Illinois, Brookhaven in New York, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and SLAC in California, National Renewable Energy in Colorado, Pacific Northwest in Washington, Sandia and Los Alamos in New Mexico, Idaho in Idaho, Savannah River in South Carolina, Oak Ridge in Tennessee, and National Energy Technology in Philadelphia.

Further reading

US DOE: Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium R&D project awards

US DOE: Quadrennial Energy Review

US DOE: Quadrennial Technology Review