By Jesse Berst
Like the utility industry itself, the DOE has long operated in siloed departments. Some months ago, several of them developed a shared vision of the U.S. electricity system in 2035. Although the DOE originally developed the vision for internal use, it has decided to take the show on the road and pitch it to external stakeholders. The first stop on the tour was to state utility regulators at their 2012 National Electricity Forum.
Why you should care
Why should utilities be concerned about the DOE's long-term vision, especially at this early stage? First, they have some smart people on their extended team, so you can glean good ideas. Second, they will be putting federal R&D dollars behind this emerging vision.
And third, DOE has the ear of regulators. If they succeed in getting regulators on board, you'll soon see changes in the things those regulators ask you to do.
Right now the DOE is circulating its draft vision as a short slide show that is long on cartoons and short on substance. Even so, it is possible to glean some intriguing directions.
Three key themes
The vision centers around three themes:
1. Seamless from generation to end use
2. Supports clean energy
3. Empowers consumers
Six course corrections
Drill down underneath each theme and you discover at least six intriguing ideas that represent a course correction from today's approaches.
1. AC-DC hybrid systems that mix-and-match AC to AC, DC to AC and DC to DC
2. Different degrees of power quality for different customer sets
3. Making it easy for outsiders to offer new products, services and markets
4. Making it easy for any form of generation or storage to hook into the system
5. Giving choice to 100% of customers
6. The substation will morph into an "Electricity Systems Hub"
Click the link below to review the DOE slide show in PDF format.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com. He consults to smart grid companies seeking market entry advice and M&A advisory. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the US and abroad, he also serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Energy & Environment directorate.