Building a Robust Grid an Essential Step in Integrating Electricity, Gas, and Water
The systems and infrastructure that supply society with electricity, gas, and water are more interdependent than ever before. A few examples: Water is needed to cool power plants and produce natural gas, and the natural gas supply system needs electricity to run compressor stations and manage transport. The number and complexity of connections across the energy system are growing as consumers opt for electric vehicles—and as digital technology and telecommunications become integrated into every aspect of energy.
But this interdependence does not yet translate into integration. Fragmentation leads to inefficiencies, higher costs, and increased vulnerability to cyber attacks and natural disasters.
It doesn’t have to be this way. EPRI’s Integrated Energy Network provides a blueprint for harnessing emerging technologies and markets to advance integration, increase customer choice, and improve affordability, reliability, and efficiency.
The electric power industry is already testing and deploying at scale the technologies and standards needed for greater coordination among the water, natural gas, and electricity systems. EPRI’s Integrated Grid pilots and other efforts to incorporate distributed energy resources such as solar and wind into the grid are helping to preserve the benefits of central station generation, facilitate two-way power flows, and enable a cleaner grid.
The Integrated Grid initiative is pioneering the metering, telecommunications, data standards, security, and analytical tools required for integrating key elements of the energy and natural resource systems. Successful implementation of the Integrated Grid will help limit unnecessary and expensive duplication of efforts. For example, if a utility builds a telecommunications system to enable advanced metering in homes, there’s no reason the water and gas companies need to reinvent the wheel.
Natural gas planning, dispatch, and markets offer further integration opportunities. As natural gas is used increasingly for both electricity generation and heating, improved integration can provide utilities and customers with more choices and flexibility when demand is high. As electric vehicles proliferate, timing charging with periods of abundant solar generation can provide tremendous value to drivers and utilities.
Other opportunities include improving coordination of water and electricity systems to bolster water conservation and using water and thermal energy storage to provide flexibility for the electric system.
Key actions for integrating energy resources include:
- Developing interconnection rules, communication technologies, and standards for data transfer and privacy
- Testing and deploying sensors, smart inverters, and distribution management systems
- Devising strategies to better integrate distributed energy resources into grid planning and operations
- Informing policy and regulations to speed cost-effective integration of distributed energy resources
- Enhancing the transmission system to enable integration of more variable generation
- Identifying ways to integrate systems that deliver electricity, natural gas, and water as they become more automated
- Analyzing the potential for integrating gas and electric markets, including consideration of operations, planning, and environmental challenges and opportunities
- Investigating how “big data” can be tapped to meet real-time grid needs
The Three Pillars of the Integrated Energy Network
The Integrated Energy Network provides EPRI’s perspective on the future of energy. Research needs are identified for each of three supporting pillars:
- Using affordable, cleaner energy through efficiency and electrification: focuses on the opportunities and challenges—both technical and institutional—involved with scaling the use of cleaner energy sources.
- Producing cleaner energy: details the potential of cleaner electric generation technologies—renewable energy, nuclear power, and fossil-fueled generation with carbon capture—along with promising non-electric technologies.
- Integrating energy resources: examines how new technologies and markets must be tapped to better integrate the electricity, gas, water, and transportation systems.
EPRI invites you to share your ideas and approaches for addressing each of the three pillars.