US DoE develops tool evaluating climate impacts of smart grid 18 JULY 2016

The US DoE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed a tool that enables utilities to evaluate the environmental impacts of smart grid technologies.

According to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, “smart grid technologies significantly reduce greenhouse gases and other emissions … but, surprisingly, sometimes the opposite is true for an individual project.” [Energy management leads smart grid IT systems market]

The lab thus developed a tool that gives utilities and the wider energy industry the ability to determine the environmental impacts of adopting smart grid technologies, as well as the operational data to justify smart grid investment.

The free, web-based ‘Emissions Quantification Tool’ calculates the changes to carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and the energy and financial savings that may be achieved by integrating smart grid technologies. Smart grid technologies that have been evaluated for environmental impact include coordinated electric vehicle charging schedules, battery-stored energy, and devices that enable integration of solar generation into the power grid.

Karen Studarus, a power systems engineer at PNNL and project lead, said: “Users can quickly and easily screen different scenarios by varying the type of smart grid technology and other variables to best characterize their specific set of circumstances and location.

“The modules we’ve assembled are being used right now to explore the impacts of proposed projects and understand the sometimes counterintuitive tradeoffs.”

The tool is available for use and be accessed at the following link:

A prototype of the tool was demonstrated at the National Summit on Smart Grid and Climate Change in October. In addition, a paper outlining the science behind the tool is being featured as a best conference paper at the IEEE Power & Engineering Society meeting in Boston today – 18 July 2016.

Driving smart grid adoption

The tool was developed with consultation from utility and energy industry representatives “who helped ensure the tool would deliver the high-level insights needed for a smart grid business case.” [Exelon Utilities budgets US$25bn for smart grid tech]

Once a calculation is complete, the tool produces a detailed report with pre- and post-technology adoption comparisons, says the lab. The report also informs the user on a number of variables. For example, how much energy storage would be needed to provide a certain operational benefit and what the resulting increase or decrease in emissions would be.

“As someone who’s always trying to articulate the value of investments in smart grid, it’s so useful to have a tool to illuminate the specifics driving that value,” said Laney Brown of Modern Grid Partners, a utility consulting firm.

Studarus added: “With insights from the tool, utilities, policy makers, and companies can see the impacts, for example, of shifting energy use to a different time of day or of adopting additional renewable energy resources.”

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