Jul 24, 2014

How to Transform the Smart Grid, According to NEMA

Green Tech
5 min
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) submitted 14 recommendations to the Obama administration on how to transform the smart gird...

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) submitted 14 recommendations to the Obama administration on how to transform the smart gird as part of the administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review. Let’s take a look at their recommendations what they suggest for transforming the grid.  

1. Incentivize the construction of microgrids and energy storage systems.
A microgrid, or a “localized grouping of electricity generation, energy storage, and electrical loads,” stores electricity when demand is low. They help improve reliance and efficiency of the grid, making them a necessary part of the future of the grid.

2. Amend eligibility requirements for federal flood insurance to require water-resistant components, wiring, cabling, and elevated substations in federally-designated flood plains.
This is as simple as updating grid infrastructure to make it water resistant, and thus making it less waster-based disaster prone in areas where that is of great concern.

3. Amend the Stafford Act to allow disaster assistance to be used to replace damaged equipment with more resilient technologies, including on-site back-up power.
The Stafford Act is a piece of legislation that allows for funding of emergency relief programs. NEMA recommends that instead of fixing what’s already broken, it’s better to replace the old, broken grid tech with new, energy efficient tech. This would help improve the grid, even in a time of crisis, and thus safe cost by making a smart investment rather than fixing something likely to break again.

4. Allow use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for restoration of privately-owned electric utility infrastructure.
In previous cases of “exceptional damage” to the electric grid, funds were allocated for repair or rebuilding of privately-owned utility infrastructure. This was not the case during SuperStorm Sandy. NEMA is arguing that these CDBG need to be used for this again, as it would reduce the overall economic impact.

5. The federal government (FCC and NTIA) should allocate a common set of frequencies for communication with intelligent electrical devices, enabling faster restoration of power, more efficient use of capacity, and improving grid security by regulating products operating within the frequency band.
This would essentially give smart grids their own highways to operate on, making them more secure and efficient. They wouldn’t have to compete with other frequencies, allowing for easier access.

6. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should have backstop siting authority for interstate transmission lines, similar to authority they have for natural gas pipelines, including lead authority in coordinating environmental and other reviews.
This would help streamline projects, while keeping the majority of the rights of the states.

7. Facilitate installation of smart technologies that reduce transmission congestion by updating FERC Order 1000 on cost allocation.
Order 1000 allows transmission provides to join a region, giving that region planning flexibility and cost allocation. The report finds that Order 1000 can be a hindrance to smaller, more targeted smart grid projects due to its high-dollar thresholds. NEMA notes that these projects can have really high cost-benefit rations, but really low installation costs that don’t meet threshold requirements. A reduction of these thresholds would allow for projects to use the most recent tech and keep costs down.

8. NIST, in collaboration with industry, should develop better reliability metrics in order to facilitate transmission investments and improve reliability.
This is as simple as improving metrics and using the data collected from grids to facilitate more effective upgrades.

9. Cybersecurity: Promote industry-led consensus standards to protect the grid from cyber-attack and expand liability protection to incentivize innovations and the development of technologies to protect the electric grid from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.
NEMA argues that grid security be brought up to current standards. With grid security rapidly evolving daily, in both innovations and threats, it’s important that the industry keep up with the trends. NEMA believes that the private sector is up to the challenge, but current vulnerabilities are holding back further innovation. “We recommend that the SAFETY Act’s liability protections be expanded to cover critical infrastructure industrial control systems, associated software, and other related cybersecurity technologies,” the report notes. “Such protections are essential to incentivize innovations and the robust development of technologies designed to protect the electric grid from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.”

10. Physical Security: the federal government should work with industry to establish standards for physical hardening of transformers and substations and require deployment of advanced sensing equipment at critical junctures in the electric grid.
In 2013, a PG&E substation in San Jose was ‘sabotaged.’ Fiber optic cables were cut in an attempt to shut down service. NEMA argues that physical security needs to be stepped up dramatically in order to defer attempts like this. “Proactive substation design, including compact gas-insulated substations, will allow critical facilities to be fully enclosed and secured for greater protection,” it states.

11. Authorize the Department of Energy to require strategic siting of: spare transformers, long lead-time components, and regional pools of equipment reserves.
NEMA essentially recommends backup options always be available in order to allow for rapid response in times of crisis.

12. Accelerated depreciation for Smart Grid technologies.
This would mean creating tax incentives for smart grid tech, making long-term smart grid projects more incentivized. NEMA believes that “greater energy efficiency is a national priority that will boost economic productivity and competitiveness, enhance U.S. energy security, mitigate outages and reduce emissions.”

13. Offer federal incentive grants to states to adopt performance-based regulatory models that reward modernization and efficiency rather than increased consumption.
NEMA notes there is a huge investment gap of $11 billion for transmission and distribution infrastructure. This could lead to a huge gap of $730 billion by 2040. They argue that utilities need to modernize their business models, which needs to be complimented by updated regulations.

14. Establish a national infrastructure bank (NIB) to incentivize modernization of the electric grid and other U.S. infrastructure.
This would incentivize grid innovation on both a short-term and long-term basis. NEMA believes this would solve the previoius problem, recommending “Congress consider establishing a national infrastructure bank (NIB) to leverage private sector investment in modernizing the electric grid and close gaps between the rate of return the private sector requires and the revenues that current rate structures can generate.”

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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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