The Future of the Energy Grid


Department of Energy and GridWise Alliance Report Outlines the Future of the Energy Grid

Ari Michelson for Zondits, December 23, 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (DOE-OE), in conjunction with GridWise Alliance (GWA), recently hosted a series of regional workshops and a national summit entitled, “The Future of the Grid: Evolving to Meet America’s Needs.” The report of the same name, published in December 2014, outlines the group’s vision for the electrical grid through 2030 and the business and regulatory changes that will be needed to implement this vision successfully.

The group’s vision is of a grid that is increasingly complex, integrating distributed energy resources (DER) and adaptive, “smart” technologies in greater proportions. Grid operators face a challenge of balancing supply and demand as customers evolve to both produce and consume energy; the grid must manage this effectively to maintain reliability and adaptability. Emerging technologies such as energy storage and microgrids will need to be incorporated into the grid, necessitating the advancement of automated communication and analytics that can effectively monitor and manage the increasing complexity.

To enact this vision, the DOE-OE/GWA group sees the utility role adapting as third parties increasingly participate in the market. The vision requires clear price signals to energy producers and consumers, and utilities may need to shift from their traditional role as commodity providers towards offering customized services based on specific customer needs. The increasing complexity of the grid will require utilities to improve their data analysis capabilities so that they are managing resources in real time and coordinating wholesale and retail energy markets effectively.

Overall, the primary recommendations resulting from the workshops and summit were to:

  1. Establish clear guiding principles applicable at regional, state, and local levels to drive grid modernization.
  2. Create a framework to inform investments to transition from today’s grid to the future grid.
  3. Focus on stakeholder education and engagement to drive the evolution of the grid.
  4. Consistently encourage research and analysis to understand and address technology challenges resulting from a modernized grid.

The workshops and summit in total brought more than 400 industry experts together to think about the future of the grid and the changing industry roles required to implement this vision.