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ARPA-E Dodges a Bullet

September 5, 2018 / Jill Feblowitz / Distributed Energy Resources, DOE Programs, Electric Vehicles, Energy Storage, Integrating Renewables, Microgrids, Virtual Power Plants

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.


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