ARPA-E Dodges a Bullet
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) was created to provide access to funding for energy industry innovation. With the signing of the U.S. spending bill, ARPA-E dodged a bullet. This is a good thing for utilities.
Despite the common misconception that the agency is about only renewable companies, utilities and manufacturers also have benefited from ARPA-E. A few companies born out of agency projects now provide products directly to the utility industry; other utility-related innovations are still in gestation. It makes sense for utilities to review what ARPA-E provides. For more information, check out my piece in Electric Light and Power – ARPA-E Dodges a Bullet: Utilities Gain from ARPA-E.
Here is where utilities have benefited:
Table 1: Utility Priorities and ARPA-E Funded Technology Projects
|Priorities||Type of Utility||Examples of Technology|
|System energy efficiency||Transmission and Distribution(T&D) utilities||High-power superconductors; high performance computing for real-time transmission congestion management; optical high voltage switching; advancing long duration and seasonal energy storage; improvements in grid-scale energy storage management; demand response management systems; micro-phasor measurement units|
|Power generation improvements||Vertically integrated utilities, merchant generators||Air cooling technology for thermo-electric generating plants; thermal energy storage for nuclear power plants increasing the efficiency of utility-scale electric power converters; supercritical fluid cooling for gas turbines; gas pipeline and gas generation market optimization; waste generation heat to electricity;|
|Resiliency||T&D utilities||Microgrid control technologies; grid modeling databases; testing of grid-scale storage; secure communications for automated switching|
|Reduced emissions||Vertically integrated utilities, merchant generators||Nuclear fusion; advanced carbon capture for coal plants; increased efficiency of PV cells; increased efficiency of wind turbines|
|Integrating distributed energy resources||T&D utilities with growing penetration of renewables||Improvements in grid-scale energy storage and energy storage management; increasing the efficiency of utility-scale electric power converters|
|Renewable power options||Regulated utilities and unregulated utility divisions||Hybrid photo-voltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP); reduced cost ocean kinetic energy;|
|Safety & security||Gas utilities; all utilities||Methane monitoring technology; grid cybersecurity models;|
|End-use customer energy efficiency||Utilities with corporate goals, state mandates or incentives for energy efficiency||Power conversion efficiency in consumer appliances; advances in building cooling technologies; improving data center energy efficiency; lower cost window films; more efficient LEDs; fully automated energy audit using portable scanning; adjustable insulating clothing|
|Increased sales of energy||Electric utilities, gas utilities||Electric vehicle battery storage; residential gas-fired CHP; natural gas fueled vehicles|
|New revenue streams||Regulated utilities and unregulated utility divisions||Electro-fuels produced from electricity or chemicals; software to determine when DERs can be optimally bid into wholesale markets; Distribution Systems Operator design and simulation tools|
Note: The table is based on a review of the APRA-E website.